Engaging communities in nature conservation through aesthetics and art: Preliminary insights from a Tasmanian perspective

Year: 2018

Author: MacDonald, Abbey, Richardson, Benjamin, Delphin, Tracey, Hogan, Jan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Australian society is deeply divided in how it understands and in turn values notions of landscape and environment. Due to their affective capacity to generate emotional and cultural commitment in a way that science and economics cannot easily solicit, aesthetics are vital for engaging communities in and with natural environments. The language, codes and conventions pertinent to aesthetic response and meaning making across different mediums can be difficult to articulate and in turn to grasp, particularly for school aged children. Aesthetics are defined in the Australian Curriculum to include specific artistic awareness, or a deep appreciation of the meaning of an artistic experience through intellectual, emotional and sensual response to a work of art. In media arts, aesthetic engagement involves interaction with and increasing understanding of how images, sounds and texts can be used to provoke responses, and in visual arts, the philosophical theory or set of principles governing the idea of beauty at a given time and place are emphasised. The choices an artist makes in relation to how they construct a particular aesthetic of the land can be likened to the pedagogical negotiation a teacher engages in to help cultivate student interest in and value for the natural environment through aesthetic means.
Drawing from an entwined process of place based learning and relational art inquiry, this presentation explores the role of artist and teacher in regard to how understanding and value of the natural environment might be better cultivated. This presentation offers insights into the observed inhibitors and enablers that can implicate upon teacher and student engagement with, and subsequent value of the environment, through aesthetics. As part of the collaborative inquiry underpinning this presentation, excerpts from exemplar teaching/learning resources developed to align with the Australian Curriculum Cross-curriculum Priorities and General Capabilities from a visual/media art aesthetic knowing lens will be discussed. Strategies to support classroom inquiry where students can make meaning in relation to systems, worldviews and possible futures through deeper appreciation of, and engagement with environment through aesthetics will be proposed