Natura Artis Magistra

“Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realise that they are one and the same process as the universe.” ~Alan Watts

The ideal of the Renaissance human-being is based on the belief that a man or women’s capacity for personal development is without limits. For myself the hopes of our planet lie in the histories of past achievements; a time of scientific revolution; a time during the Renaissance period when developments in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology and chemistry transformed views of society and nature.

A Brave New World

According to Governments across the world, increasing students’ participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) remain a primary component of policy measures to strengthen education and innovation.

With recent research (by PricewaterhouseCoopers) indicating that 75% of the fastest growing occupations now require more employees trained in STEM (2015), countries like the US and Australia have been quick to react. The United States aim to increase the number of graduates in STEM fields by one-third over the next decade. For Australia, the Federal Government has released a $1.1 billion package over the next four years to drive a so called “ideas boom” (ABC Australia, 2015).

Despite these findings, according to OECD Publishing (2014), efforts to boost participation and interest in STEM subjects may have limited benefits in the absence of ‘high-quality’ and motivating teaching in schools.

Following the Yellow Brick Rd

With a consensus that the skills associated with innovation include specialised knowledge, general problem-solving and thinking skills, creativity, and social and behavioural skills, including teamwork, a road map appears to be forming among nations.  

A growing trend to shape school and university curricula and teaching methods to encourage the development of these skills, including the use of technology, is quickly becoming the priority for educational institutions. In Denmark there is the National Innovation Strategy; Belgium, the Creative Wallonia; Costa Rica, the Innovating at Home programme; and in Norway, the Action Plan for Entrepreneurship in Education, undoubtedly there are others.

Whilst technology can assist us in disseminating knowledge and allow us to explore beyond borders, technology must not replace our greatest asset.

The forgotten path

Have you ever stopped and said to yourself, “wow, whoever came up with this (design) is a genius”?

The origin of most things we acknowledge to be of a ‘genius pedigree’ can be found not in the walls of Harvard, or in the minds of ‘Siliconites’ but in a place that has become more feared then revered Nature. Let me elaborate by providing you with a couple of examples.  

In 1937 German Scientist, Otto Bayer, founded Bayer Company with the invention of the polyurethane foam sponge, a sponge resembling the ancient sea sponge which appeared about 2.5 billion years ago.

Similarly, the process of building activity appeared when prehistoric human beings first created shelters themselves. The most common material were animal skins, fur, wool and plant related products like reed, flax or straw (Bozsaky, 2010). Modern-day insulation it could be said is therefore attributable to the common sheep.

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A new Renaissance

At the same time as we walk into a world that is heavily reliant on technological applications, 5 to 8 times the amount of children, since the 1950s, suffer some type of anxiety disorder (Gray, 2013) with the health of our home reaching critical levels. It seems clear to me that between all the (much needed) money being thrown around and the never-ending policy writing to reflect economic projections, there is one fundamental aspect which appears to continuously be discounted. Spending time in nature and acknowledging its intelligence.

As we have we done for generations and we’ll continue to do for many more, we must look to the natural world for inspiration to provide an education that encourages thinking and problem solving, analytic capabilities, curiosity and imagination. Much like we have done to insulate our homes, to find ways to keep our dwellings clean and even to help know what time and day it is in our busy lives thanks to the existence of our sun.

In not forgetting our roots, the time for the Renaissance human being is once again being asked of us in attempting to find the solutions to ‘complex problems’.

Reference list

Bozsaky, D. (2010). The historical development of thermal insulation materials. The historical development of thermal insulation materials. Periodica Polytechnica Architecture. Periodica Polytechnica: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/274110149_The_historical_development_of_thermal_insulation_materials

Gray, P. (2010). The Decline of Play and Rise in Children's Mental Disorder. Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/freedom-learn/201001/the-decline-play-and-rise-in-childrens-mental-disorders

OECD (2014), Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2014-en