Children in Transition: Art, nature, life

Posted on June 9, 2011 By M. Adele Connally at Transition Voice

Recently I sat in on a Transition US webinar on Children in Transition with Dianne Monroe. Monroe calls herself an “Expressive Arts Facilitator”—she creates, leads workshops, and mentors in San Antonio, Texas.

Her purpose with the presentation was to look at how our interactions with children, as parents, extended relatives, educators, and community members, can help them meet the future. Transition in the webinar title refers to the worldwide Transition Movement founded in 2005 by Rob Hopkins in Totnes, England.


Unstructured exploration, play and discovery speaks to children's souls...and to all of us if we let it.
Photo: nicoleta gramada via Flickr.

Eyes wide open

The world is changing rapidly and some of the shifts in resources and economy can seem terrifying and certainly call for a proactive response. Hopkins (and the community involved in Transition Initiatives around the world) holds to a goal that has really captured me: While dealing with the problems we have created as a society, how can we approach change with intentionality and hope? How can we make a society for tomorrow that is better than the world today? These approaches resonate with my understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Monroe’s presentation was consistent with the Transition approach, and focused specifically on interactions with children in light of that understanding. She says that in introducing children to Transition concepts, it’s important to cultivate attitudes and understandings that are not fear based. Instead, we can best help children prepare for the future through hope and creativity.

What we really want for our children is resilience, the ability to meet the challenges of the future with the resources they already have access to. Children need core resilience that’s rooted in a strong concept of self and bolstered by inner knowledge. With this they’ll have the ability to respond creatively to change. We want to give our children groundedness, and what Dianne calls “fluency in creativity and imagination.”

How we relate

Participants in the webinar were given a number of opportunities to respond to survey questions. Dianne asked whether participants contributed in current relationships with children in four basic areas which, from a Transition perspective, it’s especially important to encourage:

  • An inner self
  • Imagination/creativity
  • Connection with nature
  • Joy/Wonder

I was interested to see everyone’s reaction: each category was checked by about 75% participants, except the Joy and Wonder field, which only about 30% checked. I wondered why joy and wonder were harder for adults to encourage in children? Does our fear for the future prevent us from expressing joy and wonder ourselves?

We’re in it together

Monroe then discussed how to nurture children through mirroring; helping them unravel the person they’re already becoming. We can mirror emerging qualities, nurturing a child’s inner character, reflecting back to them the validity and worth in their discoveries.

Rather than simply encouraging simple participation skills like following directions, we should honor and applaud unfolding gifts, talents, and contributions children can make in their community. This is about their positive attributes, not just their positive actions. Noticing that a child is attracted to something —a color, a flower, or a story character offers an opportunity to help kids identify the meanings of their preferences, what attributes they’re attracted to.

Recalling a story of boy who repeatedly photographed dark holes, like hose nozzles and tree cavities, Monroe asked him,“What are you looking for when you take these photos of holes?” He replied, “There is mystery in the dark… I want to see new things. I want to discover something no one has ever seen before.” Seeing that this was a powerful resource within the boy, rather than dismissing this as unusual, she encouraged him to remember that desire as he grew up.

Something for nothing

Another very important practice with children is mere wandering. Unstructured time in nature, without a plan or agenda, should be encouraged, allowing a child to follow his or her attention and curiosity. This can be alone or with an adult who’s following the child’s attention, helping him or her question more deeply.

Historically, kids had many more opportunities to wander undirected and simply unravel their own draw toward natural elements; these opportunities have now almost entirely disappeared from the urban and suburban environment.

Only offering highly structured time outdoors really short changes kids as they struggle to establish their own connections with the natural world. Here Monroe referenced eco-theologian Thomas Berry’s The Great Work, a tome on human relationships with the wild.

Her description of wandering recalled in me the work of Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods.

Come on in, the water’s fine

Finally, Monroe extended an invitation to explore. She took time to emphasize the benefits we receive as adults, participating with children in wandering and reflecting. For children, adults, and for society, time in nature and the connections we build there are vital.

I encourage you to visit Dianne’s website and get inspired by her artistic work and vision. You can also contact her via e-mail.

She ‘ll be hosting part two of Children in Transition June 9th at 4pm Pacific Time (7pm ET). You can also learn more on the Facebook page of Transition US.

Cross posted from

M. Adele Connally for Transition Voice

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