Wake Up to Nature Keynote

Sapphira Butler with Dr. Jorge Ramos at Wake Up to Nature in Campbell

Hi, My name is Sapphira and I’m a teacher from Australia. I moved to the Bay Area at the end of 2018 and I’ve been with the EVs for a whole year now. I have so much to say about my experience , so I’m going to mention three main things:

  1. Friendship
  2. Education 
  3. Nature

Firstly Friendship – I just spent two days last week down at the beach with three other EVs who took me away to celebrate my 40th. The weekend before that, I spent an evening geeking out over birds and board games with 2 other EVs I adore and before that I spent time in Tahoe with another adventure seeking EV. I consider these to be life-alteringly wonderful friendships. And there are many reasons to be friends with these people, they are really nice and we have some things in common, but we all know from lots of other life experiences, that you can live and work alongside people for years without ever really spending time with them. There is something incredible and deliberate about the way the EVs nurture community. Which is intrinsically connected to Education.

Emotion is where learning begins, and by building a sense of belonging and emotional safety, the EV builds a space for learning, connection and sharing knowledge. They value and prioritize friendship and community as part of their ethos because they know it must come first in order to make space for learning. From the moment I started training I was blown away. It was an incredible mix of community building through ice-breaking activities and shared experience stories. It was transformative inclusive teaching practices – once Toby taught part of a day in another language to illustrate what it feels like to not understand the language of your teacher. And it was deep content-specific science teaching to build my knowledge and understanding and spark my own learning journeys. It was understanding, supportive, patient, flexible, and fun! It was teacher training of the very highest caliber – and I can say this as someone who has been to a lot of teacher professional developments. The design and management of the training, the activities, the materials, the roster, and the communications are all optimized to help me feel supported, included, and valued. 

And then we get to visit all these wonderful classrooms and light them up with awesome science! It’s absolutely the best – we’re like science rock stars, with shake tables, squid dissections, power generators, skins, skeletons, feathers, pellets, soil, oil spills and so much more! And then there are our beautiful field trips – to Baylands, tide pools, foothills, mixed forests, and school gardens.

Which all brings me to Nature. We know that it is neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things that you don’t care about. This is why, simply nurturing a relationship with nature is the most important step toward stewardship. To observe with all our senses, to share little things we love, to let nature do most of the ‘teaching’ and to make space for the children to enjoy their encounters with it. This is urgent work. And the best part about teaching like this is that it transforms us in the process. 

Before joining the EVs I would never have imagined myself as a hiker or a birder, but I most certainly am one now. I have a much deeper passion for the interconnectedness of all the different domains and can more clearly appreciate the larger systems at work. Like tides, or climate, or hills and valleys. Why California, and Iceland, New Zealand and Japan are so mind blowingly pretty. And why the challenges with water management and energy production are so similar here as back in Australia.

I believe the Environmental Volunteers help the Bay Area build rich learning communities who nurture a deep love and understanding of the natural world and that these things can truly change our future.
Can all my fellow volunteers please stand so that everyone can recognize you properly. 

And also, you can join in pretty easily – there’s a training starting right around the corner . It’s pretty great.

By Sapphira Bulter, Teacher and EV