Shimshon Obadia is an Interdisciplinary Eco Artist leading the Daylighting the Classroom project in partnership with The University of British Columbia’s SSHRC funded Eco Art Incubator research initiative and public schools in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. This project’s mandate is to use eco art to re-envision education and the role of the natural world in school curricula. Obadia has been using eco-art to connect public school students with their more-than-human community. This project began in 2013 to try to bring attention to École KLO Middle School’s long-term struggle to restore the often flooded concrete-covered wetland habitat that once ran through their school grounds. Initiated by students’ discovery of blue-listed Western Painted Turtle eggs in their long jump sand pits, this school’s community began to restore the species’ disappearing habitat. Originally challenged to raise $100,000.00 their school board for this habitat’s restoration, multiple “generations” of students, with the assistance of their science teacher, Michelle Hamilton and the school’s Green Parent Committee, remarkably raised $86,000.00. Unfortunately, in an updated quote, the students then discovered their project would cost half a million dollars. Although dismayed and disappointed, through work on this issue, the students and teachers involved ended up creating a process of discovery- how the natural world is an educational resource gold mine. Through eco art implementation in their education, these students began showing an aptitude for learning far beyond what is regularly observed of middle school students in a traditional classroom setting. Starting with the completion of this endeavour, and now beginning to inspire all range of students’ incredible passion for their environment, this project directly addresses the role of eco art in the classroom and in school curricula, and helping students negotiate the disappointments and obstacles of bureaucratic intransigence and even, some might say, of dismissal of children’s right to learn from and steward the natural world.
This project made possible by: The Eco Art Incubator Research Initiative, Central Okanagan Naturalist Club, KLO Green Committee, UBC Internal Research Grant Program, The Centre for Culture and Technology, THEATRE26, British Columbia School District 23 Central Okanagan, and The City of Kelowna.