Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Voynich manuscript

The Voynich manuscript has been described as "the world's most mysterious manuscript". It has been carbon dated to the 15th century and is possibly from northern Italy.

What's amazing is that it appears to be a manuscript with information and illustrations about plants and their uses but the plants don't match any known species.

Both fascinating and beautiful.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Educating the Next Steve Jobs

Interesting article over at The Wall Street Journal by Tony Wagner about how schools can teach students to be more innovative.

"In conventional schools, students learn so that they can get good grades. My most important research finding is that young innovators are intrinsically motivated. The culture of learning in programs that excel at educating for innovation emphasize what I call the three P's—play, passion and purpose. The play is discovery-based learning that leads young people to find and pursue a passion, which evolves, over time, into a deeper sense of purpose." 

The irony of course is that Steve Jobs was not a product of the education system either..... he dropped out of university and went his own way. So, while I agree with the article maybe Steve Jobs was a bad example to use.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Urban sprawl eating into wildlife habitats in Europe

 Another report from the EEA (European Environment Agency) with depressing undertones.....

"Our high-consumption lifestyles are putting more pressure on the land. But beyond the proportion of land we are covering with concrete, there is another important effect – roads and other infrastructure are carving valuable habitats into increasingly smaller fragments, with serious consequences for some of Europe’s most endangered species." EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx.

Maybe we should take a leaf out of the 2012 Olympic Park's book (thanks to the wonderful people at Pictorial Meadows) and infuse all public spaces with as much wildlife habitat as is humanly possible. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rewilding Europe

WWF Netherlands, ARK Nature, Wild Wonders of Europe and Conservation Capital have got together and created Rewilding Europe.

Rewilding Europe "aims to rewild one million hectares of land by 2020, creating 10 magnificent wildlife and wilderness areas of international quality. We will especially focus on Europe’s huge areas of abandoned land, and on providing a viable business case for wild nature."

Sounds fantastic.

I'd also like to see a rewilding in our cities. After my inspirational visit to the Technical Museum Park in Berlin (see post below) where nature was allowed to take over, I think we need to think differently about our public green spaces. It's only social conditioning that means a park is not a park unless it has a serious amount of lawn and hardscape......

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Populations of grassland butterflies decline almost 50 % over two decades

According to the European Environmental Agency, grassland butterflies have declined dramatically between 1990 and 2011, sadly "caused by intensifying agriculture and a failure to properly manage grassland ecosystems."

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, said: “This dramatic decline in grassland butterflies should ring alarm bells – in general Europe’s grassland habitats are shrinking. If we fail to maintain these habitats we could lose many of these species forever. We must recognise the importance of butterflies and other insects – the pollination they carry out is essential for both natural ecosystems and agriculture.”

The image above is of a Common Blue and its numbers have significantly declined. Tragic to think this little guy could completely disappear......

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How to Change Education - from the ground up

I urge you to watch this and pass it onto any teachers you know. The podcast is worth listening too as it has a Q&A with the audience.

Here's a link to the article mentioned in Ken Robinson's talk.

The Deutsches Technikmuseum

Back from Berlin and I'd like to share with you one of my favourite places. The Deutsches Technikmuseum. I thought this would be a good choice for my boys and the museum is full of trains, planes and boats (and a scary looking one man U-boat)....... all of which I enjoyed but I absolutely loved the museum park.

"The museum park on the premises of the former freight depot of Anhalter station is home to a variety of plants unique in Berlin.

The knotgrass from the Russian Sakhalin peninsula, the mahaleb cherry from the southern Danube region or even plants from overseas have found their way to this park. Together with the restored locomotive shed complex, this area offers visitors the rare opportunity to get a taste of the tension between nature and technology."

My photo above doesn't do it justice.... I had such a feeling of nature "rewilding" and would love to see spaces like this cropping up in and around cities. We should should spend less time controlling nature in the city and more time encouraging it to take over. 

(Don't think architects would agree, it might hide their buildings..... oh, did I say that out loud?)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Holocaust Memorial, Berlin

Very excited to be visiting this over the weekend. Stunning.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why we need to bring nature back into cities

Very interesting article with great examples at BBC Future, about how we need to live far more efficiently than most city dwellers currently do and incorporate nature in new and innovative ways.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tracking Honeybees to Save Them

Interesting article over at Nautilus, about using tracking devices on honeybees to figure out why colony collapse disorder is happening.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

As Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity

Very interesting article by Peter Gray over at Psychology Today about creativity, how it is measured through the Torrance test and how children are scoring in comparison to 20-30 years ago.

"...... all aspects of creativity have declined, but the biggest decline is in the measure called Creative Elaboration, which assesses the ability to take a particular idea and expand on it in an interesting and novel way."


Via Swissmiss.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Malala Yousafzai

An emotional start to the week.... I just watched on the BBC website, the full speech by Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai when she addressed the United Nations on Friday, her 16th birthday, campaigning for free compulsory education for all.

Malala was shot by Taliban gunmen last October because she was campaigning for girls' rights.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Transform your schoolyard

I recently finished this little booklet with ideas on how to transform your schoolyard using nature-based interventions.

I hope this inspires you to start the conversation on how to improve your school/childs school to encourage children to get outside and play in nature.


Dan Pink: Assume Nothing, Expect Everything

Excellent talk by Daniel Pink at BIF.

Poor frogs....

Via Swissmiss.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Very exciting initiative happening in Los Angeles, they are reducing six lanes of traffic along Broadway (Downtown) to three lanes and thereby extending sidewalks and curbs for walking to create more life on the streets.

Well, if Los Angeles can do it and having lived there I do speak from experience... then every other city in the world has no excuse.

From The Atlantic Cities.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

George Monbiot

This blog is fast becoming a fan site for George Monbiot...... well,  not really but it's hard not to post about his writing when it strikes such a chord with me and hopefully many other people out there.

George Monbiot's latest column at the Guardian opens up a discussion about how lovers of nature and the natural world are being labelled negatively..... but let me know not paraphrase here or regurgitate quotes out of context.... just follow this link and read it yourself.

RSA Shorts - How to find your element

Taken from a previous talk by Sir Ken Robinson at the RSA, this new short animated talk is about how "education, organisations and communities need to be built on a model of diversity rather than conformity, so that every individual is able to discover and develop their unique talents and abilities."

Watch and learn kids, watch and learn.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Late nights 'sap children's brain power'

A team of researchers from University College London, studied over 11,000 seven year olds on their sleep patterns and brain power and found:

"The consistent nature of bedtimes during early childhood is related to cognitive performance. Given the importance of early child development, there may be knock on effects for health throughout life. "

Full article at the BBC. Study found here.

(I know, the cute bunnies were a cheap shot....)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Finland's education ambassador spreads the word

I've long heard about Finland's excellent educational system and how it leads the way..... So, if you are also interested in education and the future of it, there is an article over at The Guardian about and with Finland's former chief inspector of schools, Pasi Sahlberg, who is also the author of "Finnish Lessons", a book that "...... documents how Finland achieved success without going through the arduous and controversial process of implementing competition, school choice, and test-based accountability."

Interesting indeed.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Karl Blossfeldt

Friday inspiration from the master of photography, Karl Blossfeldt.

The Whitechapel Gallery currently have an exhibition of his work with over 80 of his silver gelatin prints. (There's an interesting video about him and his work on their website that's worth checking out.)

If in London.......

Towards a Nature-Rich Urban Future vs 10 Billion

I'm torn, on the one hand I completely agree with Richard Louv in his column over at The Nature Movement, where he reimagines the future of cities "by looking through the prism of nature?"

But then I read this extract from computational scientist Stephen Emmott's book Ten Billion that, to my mind, suggests that despite what we do or plan to do we are all going to hell in a hand basket anyway....

However..... I think one of the many things that make us human (BBC Radio 2 series worth checking out) is our ability to hope. So while I applaud Stephen Emmott for his shock treatment, I think I will go the way of the optimist and hope that we can change enough to create a future worth having for us all.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Growth That Is Our Own Cradle

Such a beautiful project by Bianca Tuckwell, for her BA (Hons) Photography final major. 

"Nine nests from different species of birds are carefully studied and documented in order to heighten our appreciation of each construction." The one above is my personal favourite but check out the others in the links, well worth it.

Via Co. Design.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Farming Kindergarten in Vietnam

This project in Vietnam is a kindergarten by Vo Trong Nghia Architects, for 500 pre-school children.

A wonderful way to promote sustainable education by actually involving children in the process.

Check out on Dezeen more images of this project, or better yet, head over to the architects website and see some other wonderful projects as well.