All posts by Angela

Mycological mythologies – or a rite-of-passage

“Only you know where you’ll be when it happens. Drifting through a Wednesday counting emails in the office, bent over kale at the allotment, gearing up for the school-run dash through the rain.”

Martin Shaw, Scatterlings: Getting Claimed in the Age of Amnesia

I return a lot to wilderness rite-of-passage guide and mythologist, Doctor Martin Shaw’s writings.

In this post, I’m describing the first time I felt what it was like to have the closest sense of what Shaw writes about when he describes a journey from dreaming to getting dreamt, which can happen as part of a wilderness vigil. When you know you will never have such a vigil, can your own stories conjur something close? Do yours?


It’s twilight and we grasp candles. I’m around nine years old,  and I am wearing my ceremonial brown clothing for the last time. It is adorned with cloth badges. Each badge represents a skill I have mastered. The paddock behind the beige brick suburban hall is unremarkable. Half dead weedy grass crunches underfoot. A depressed looking singular tree stands sentinel.

In the corner sits a small crafted monument of a fly agaric mushroom. It has been painted roughly, and seems quite out of place. But it is twilight, and so, for a moment we look beyond.

The women and other girls my own age sing, while some of us, who are now the right age, are each lifted by our arms, by our leaders. We each for a brief moment soar over the mushroom,  in the twilight.  My heart flutters in the sensation as my feet leave the ground, held gently by the women. In that lightning moment of voices and flying,  we are not children in a street where our neighbours grow drugs and fight each other in the street. We are lifted. Over.

Our rite of passage complete, the next time we meet, we will bear “robes” of blue. I am different.

This is the first time I remember understanding how enchantment and a bigger belief in yourself can be conjured by a simple ceremony. A rite-of-passage that feels connected to a myth, even though the myth and the symbol does not properly belong to the land here.

I was just a Brownie, graduating into being a Girl Guide, but in the twilight, flickering like candlelight, for a moment,  I was a little more.

The unobservable universe.

“The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.” Carl Sagan

There’s a concept in astronomy that I love. It’s the idea of the edge of the observable universe. I love it because our very attempt at defining the limitations of space, create room to imagine the infinite.

The fascinating unknown of the unobservable universe.

It might even be the most poetic thought thinkable about our universe. It reminds us of our imaginations.

What is there beyond what we can see and measure from our perspective?

Even with technology capable of seeing into deep space, and complex mathematics able to theorise, model, predict and replicate. It’s probable that there is far more beyond our edge,  that we can’t see.

As a learning designer, it feels like my job is to advocate always, for this unobservable universe in education.

Learning, and the dark art of measuring it, analysing it, predicting it, evaluating it and replicating it is what we do within the boundaries.

For me, to be able to reach outside of those false edges that we create around learning, like formal education,  it always has to start with big unanswerable questions.

Book Review: Unpacking Harper Holt by Di Walker

You can read my full review of Unpacking Harper Holt on Reading Time  (Children’s Book Council of Australia)


“Unpacking Harper Holt follows high school student Harper, as she navigates a shifting sense of what normal life is.   For Harper, it’s normal to move into another new house, as her family frequently relocate due to her parents work.  Having recently moved to a suburb of coastal Melbourne, Harper’s pragmatic approach to finding her way around the neighbourhood is equalled by her approach to the almost predictable social challenges of starting yet another new school. Change and transience is part of life as usual for Harper.”

Read more Book Reviews on this site.

Book Review: The Happiness Quest by Richard Yaxley


“Dazzled by a cheery sunshine yellow cover, Yaxley’s tenderly observant prose quickly lands you in a pit of shadows, as fifteen year old Tillie Bassett tries to make sense of her inexplicable sadness. Set within suburban Brisbane, Tillie’s heart weighs heavily, feeling the world at a distance as she struggles to pass each day in the clutches of a lingering depression.”

Read the full review on Reading Time review site (Children’s Book Council of Australia)

Book Review: Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl


“As a fan of classic sci-fi, having read my way through the likes of Isaac Asimov and Ursula Le Guin, before moving into fantasy for many years, Enchantress from the Stars has made me fall in love with science-fiction all over again. Although perhaps already hinted at in the critical acclaim and awards cited on the cover, Engdahl’s writing and how she expresses the inner thoughts of her characters is compelling from the outset.  In the prologue I could already sense a clear potential to hook those who believe that science-fiction isn’t a genre they enjoy.”

Read the full review on Reading Time review site (Children’s Book Council of Australia)

Book Review: Blade of Shattered Hope (The 13th Reality #3) by James Dashner


“Dashner’s epic face-off in this ‘good kids versus evil grown up’ adventure has plenty of nightmarish mutant monsters and downright creepy scenarios faced by a likeable gang of young human characters.  The story builds into what becomes a terrifying page turner.”

Read the full review on Reading Time review site (Children’s Book Council of Australia)

Book Review: The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid

The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for The Worlds Most Adventurous Kid  by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco, illustrated by Joy Ang. Workman Publishing. New York. ISBN 9781523503544 Available September 2018.

 

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Cover image: Worman Publishing

Here is an incredibly beautiful book aimed at young adventurers, or even young adventurers at heart. It’s the sort of book that you will want to read with a torch under the bed covers, sprawled out in a treehouse, curled up in a window seat on a winter’s afternoon or on the grass underneath the shade of a tree.

 

 

But, don’t wait for the right place. You are in the right place! This book should be read wherever you find yourself right now, at a bus stop, in the schoolyard or even at the kitchen table.

The text, beautifully written by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco unfurls your imagination over 100 pages of quirky, curious places and facts hidden in the nooks and crannies of our amazing planet. At times achingly poetic descriptions of watching sunsets rise over distant forests, or lowering yourself into the centre of the earth, sits alongside thoughtful questions to ponder alongside scientific facts and details.

You navigate country to country on a global romp, magically illustrated with sketches and some beautiful coloured artwork that bring an element of comic and manga epic-ness to real places, through illustrator Joy Ang.

You are encouraged to emerge from the pages with eyes wide open to the possibility of discovering this fascination around you. Be prepared to find your own way! Reading this book reminds me of the thrill of the first time reading a choose your own adventure book when I was a child.

For me, what makes this book stand out, is that as readers, we are challenged to find and connect the elements of wonder in the places around us now. Although the book contains just snippets of the world found in the borders and margins of places, the writers demonstrate that any two places in the world can be connected, so that you can traverse in thought from place to place.

There are no photographs of the destinations included, but with the related Atlas Obscura website to explore, photographs really aren’t needed in the book.

This is a book to read if you are a kid, aimed at ages 8-12, but also a book to read if you forgot or refused to grow up.

The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for The Worlds Most Adventurous Kid Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco, illustrated by Joy Ang. Workman Publishing. New York. ISBN 9781523503544 (Available September 2018)


A digital review copy was provided to me by the publisher and this review is also published on Netgalley.

Book Review: Girls who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani’s book Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World conjures up conflicting emotions for me, before I even turn a page. Part of me wishes this book didn’t need to exist and that there was no gender divide in coding.  Yet, the fact that this book does exist as part of Saujani’s mission to help tackle the gender gap in STEM also causes me to celebrate its very existence.

Book Review: Girls who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani

Book Review: Coding as a Playground: Programming and Computational Thinking in the Early Childhood Classroom by Marina Umaschi Bers.

Through my explorations of Makerspaces, I keep returning to wonder about why we create separate, distinct spaces aside from others “for making”. In a similar way, we also create designated play spaces, like playgrounds “to play”.

These boundaries of space, led me to reading Coding as a Playground: Programming and Computational Thinking in the Early Childhood Classroom by Marina Umaschi Bers.

Book Review: Coding as a Playground by Marian Umaschi Bers