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Transformative places
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(Re)placing ourselves in nature
This research supports the National Geographic Society's Great Nature Project.Try it now by uploading images of nature and animals by using the hashtags #greatnature #animal through most social media platforms.
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An exploration of how (trans)formative places foster emotional, physical, spiritual, and ecological connectedness
Revisit a transformative place
About this research If you were to take me to a transformative outdoor place, where would you go?  The chances are, that you just thought of a significant stream, back-alley or playground that was introduced to you through family or friends.  I think that everyone has a childhood or adolescent memory of the outdoors that remains significant to them through their lives.  This significance is what lies at the heart of this research: that nature-connection is an emotionally engaging experience when portrayed through a personal lens. The concept of this research is to take a small group of well-known North Americans on a journey back to their transformative places in the outdoors. Then ask you to respond by returning to your place(s) so that you create video, art, music, photos, poetry, prose, and stories to upload to this website. Help tell the story about your transformative placeYou are invited to participated in research that looks at the effects of childhood places (and the experiences that occurred in them) as catalysts of community, ecological, and civic engagement.  By submitting on this site, you are participating in this study that will help develop further understanding of childhood experiences in nature, a field that is somewhat understudied through an educational lens.  The title of this research is: (Re)placing ourselves in nature: A multimedia exploration of how transformative childhood places foster emotional, physical, spiritual, and ecological connectedness in North Americans. This research and the dissertation that manifests from it will help complete the final component of my Doctoral degree in Curriculum Studies at the University of Victoria, Faculty of Education. I am seeking your participation by asking you to respond to the key participants in the films that you can find by clicking on the images above.  To do this you will need to film yourself, create art, write, or take photographs within and about your transformative outdoor place.  This could capture written songs, playing, painting, or any activity in those places that connects to the underlying vision of this research – the role of these places over the course of your life. Uploading and interacting with the website will take only 5 – 10 minutes.  All submissions that are appropriate for the site will be made public and managed by me.  Only Ten of these submissions will be selected as part of the data analysis of this research.  You will be contacted by email if your story is selected to ensure your consent to participate, and there will be no indication on the site that it is part of the research data. Please join me in exploring transformative places. I look forward to seeing what you share! Sincerely, Nick Stanger PhD Candidate University of Victoria www.nicholasstanger.ca
This website contributes towards partial fulfillment of the requirements for the dissertation of the Doctorate of Philosophy in Curriculum Studies at the University of Victoria.  Informed consent download
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Wade Davis
Videography and photographyMatt Miles, Bill Weaver, Nick Stanger Sound post-productionNick Stanger and Darin Steinkey SupportDarreld Beauchamp and Joy Beauchamp ParticipantsClaudia Li, May Sam, Iona Campagnolo, and Wade Davis Funding SupportSocial Sciences and Humanities Research Council, University of Victoria
Iona Campagnolo
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Claudia Li
May Sam
Research by Nick Stanger Click here to access Nick's bibliography Panarchy of Place iBook by Nick Stanger Other research terms of interest SolastalgiaTopophiliaNature Deficit DisorderPanarchy
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Join this community by mapping your transformative outdoor place online. You can do this by visiting the (Re)placing Ourselves in Nature map:
North Americans spend decreasing amounts of time in nature and are experiencing what some have coined Nature Deficit Disorder.  This alienation from ecological systems that nurture us, teach us, and engage us in meaningful activities, further disconnects us from living like we plan on staying on Earth. This research seeks to explore human relationships with nature and answer the question: Does learning that occurs in childhood and adolescent outdoor places inform civic, emotional, physical, and/or spiritual engagement or connectedness over the course of people's lives? If so, how? Despite considerable North American research that concerns climate change, education, special places, and behavioural change, few action-based research and media projects have been conducted that consider all of these topics.   Further to this, most of the research that can help create environmental or ecological-based behaviour change seems to be limited to scholarly journals, library shelves, and short-term policy intervention.
Click on images of the participants above and explore their stories of returning to significant places.  You can then add comments at the bottom of any of their pages in the DISQUS area.  In these comment areas, you can write as much as you want, upload photos or paste in links to videos or other sites online.  Youtube links will automatically generate a video in that space. You can also pin yourself on the (Re)placing Ourselves in Nature map as described to the left.  This allows you to upload photos and videos which will be imbedded in the marker that you place on the map! You are also welcome to email me your story of a transformative childhood place at anytime at nstanger@uvic.ca.   All submissions to this website or by email to me can be deleted.  Your participation in this website indicates that you have agreed to the informed consent - see more below. 
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Videography and photographyMatt Miles, Bill Weaver, Nick Stanger Sound post-productionNick Stanger and Darin Steinkey SupportDarreld Beauchamp and Joy Beauchamp ParticipantsClaudia Li, May Sam, Iona Campagnolo, and Wade Davis Funding SupportSocial Sciences and Humanities Research Council, University of Victoria
Research by Nick Stanger Click here to access Nick's bibliography Panarchy of Place iBook by Nick Stanger Other research terms of interest SolastalgiaTopophiliaNature Deficit DisorderPanarchy
Do you have a transformative place that you want to share?
Claudia visits her childhood home in Burnaby
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Claudia Li, the co-founder of the Hua Foundation and Sharktruth.org, took me back to her childhood home in Burnaby BC to rediscover her connection to place.  With memories of her grandma, smells of tomatoes, and the discomforting realization that memory can play tricks on perception, Claudia leads us through an experience full of emotion, connection, and healing.
Claudia remembers her chidhood home
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Claudia Li invited me into a part of her life that consisted of early memories. For twenty years, she has lived within a few blocks of this childhood home and never ventured back to her childhood backyard.  Her memories connected to her recently passed grandmother, a first generation immigrant from Hong Kong. I asked Claudia to take me somewhere that would be a natural setting for a pre-interview.  She suggested that we go to Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, where she walks with her mother every week. This site gave us a vista over Burnaby, Burrard Inlet, North Shore Mountains, and in the distance, Vancouver Harbour and the City of Vancouver.  Claudia told me about her grandmother, and some of her first memories of smell being the tomatoes that her grandmother grew in the backyard.  She described an idyllic setting of sunny afternoons after school being mesmerized by the tomatoes and her grandmother's stories.  "Bliss" was the word that popped into her head when thinking about the memory of her grandma and the backyard.  I asked her to draw the backyard (you can see her drawing and the film of her drawing it above).  This sparked some early memories of space and context within the geography of the area.  She drew a 3D representation of the scene of running down the steps looking for her grandma.   Claudia's visit back to the backyard was emotional.  "I know it is my childhood memory, and I know it is kind of tricking me" and she felt sad at her "memory bubble" being burst.  "The yard seemed so much bigger in my memory…it seemed so vast and grand."  Yet, when asked about how to connect her memory of the place to her work as an activist now, she was able to articulate that her connection to place and grandmother is the basis for her joy, love, and appreciation of life.  She also indicated that this house wasn't all about these rosy memories and that to experience deep joy, there needs to be the experience of darkness and there was something about this place that gave her this diversity of feeling-experiences. After the filming was done, I asked Claudia, "how was that for you?"  She replied, "healing."
Claudia draws her memory
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From Nick's Perspective
Claudia's drawing of her transformative place
Claudia Li returns to her childhood home in Burnaby
May Sam
May Sam, a Tsartlip elder, Malahat and Khowutzun member, Great Grandmother, Knitter-extraordinaire, and embodiment of generosity has helped transform her communities, with her practice of knitting, relational respect, and traditional ceremonies. Along with four generations of her family, May led me through her childhood places in the Malahat and Cowichan Valley.
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May Sam's sense of place is rooted in her connection to family, food, and respect.  To see her four generations interacting in the three significant places she brought me to was a humbling experience.  Her memories are resonant in stories of learning respect for her father as well as the land and ocean that continues to support her.   In Meluxulh (Malahat), where she was born but doesn't have any early memories, she stated that it felt good to "be home."  She recounted stories of her father, single-handedly raising May and her sister.  While he kept a watchful eye on them, he used to sort the logs in the log-booms offshore and have May's older sister look after her while she lay in an apple box on the beach.   At Lhumlhumaluts' (Cowichan Flats), May had many rich memories of the salty-brined Cowichan estuary.  She was diligent about helping her family, by fetching groceries many kilometres away, collecting fresh water for drinking, and respecting the boundaries of the long-house.  She also remembers being a trouble-maker, borrowing canoes to pick crab-apples along the river.  Yet, her connection to this place continues to be absolute, and her memories of it were only slightly adapted by the reality of new buildings - Lhumlhumaluts' is relatively unchanged since she grew up there. At Tl'ulpalus (Cowichan Bay), May stayed in a cottage, helping her father to fish for flounder by walking in the shallows of the bay until she stepped on a flounder and then waiting for her father to spear it between her toes! She also told me about one of her earliest memories of when she presented him with a gift of steamed clams that she and her sister made secretly.  "That was the first time he cried.  He was so appreciative of what we had done, despite breaking the rules to do it."   May's connection to place is woven with her connection to her father, and now to her own family.   Her work as a knitter and supporter of language revitalization with the Cowichan and Tsartlip communities is directly influenced through her connection to these three places.
Meluxulh (Malahat)
Josephine Sam, May's great-granddaughter
May Sam remembers her family, Malahat, and growing up on the river
Lhumlhumuluts' (Cowichan Flats)
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Tl'ulpalus (Cowichan Bay)
Iona's relationship to Northern British Columbia is rich, deep, and full of stories. I felt that I could have travelled with her throughout B.C. for many months and continue to be surprised by the personal stories and anecdotes of her relationships to particular places, families, and businesses.  What I found most compelling was her ability to weave significant political events (be they regional, provincial, or national) into her relationships to place.  Her act of civility is grounded in politics.  Over the course of her diverse career, she also acted as the Member of Parliament for Skeena (was named Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs on election, where she served 2 years with Minister Judd Buchanan. Later, she was named Federal Minister of Fitness and Amateur Sport where she served for 3 years and set up the Sport and Fitness Ministries for Canada, and finally the President of the Federal Liberal Party.  Her views are deeply connected to the era of Pierre Trudeau politics, and yet she can tell you the current state of regional political battles and affairs. What is most poignant for me however, is her long-view of the history in Canada.  This extends well beyond the comings and goings of 1970s politics or even the founding of Canada. Her connection to place is deeply related to her connections to First Nations peoples, be they Tsimshian, Gitksan Wet'suwet'en, Haida, or Nisga'a.  She has worked tirelessly to support rights and titles claims, and treaty negotiations.  Despite not living in Northern BC anymore, she considers many of these community members her closest friends. These political and First Nations relationships, combined with a sense of place and her 'steel-trap-mind' of memories created a rich revisiting of places throughout BC.  Watch the videos as she explores memories from The Skeena Slough, her respect for the Nisga'a people, and her connection to Northern communities. 
Under North Pacific Cannery on the Skeena Slough
c. 1944 working at age 12
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Bear Glacier and Stewart, BC
Nass Valley and Nisga'a Lisims
Iona Campagnolo
Iona Remembers
Her Honour, Iona Campagnolo, Former Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, MP for Skeena Constituency, Radio Host, Mother, and change-agent took me to a childhood place under a dock at North Pacific Cannery that has been adapted into a historic site and museum along the Skeena Slough. Iona told me an incredible story that wove her early childhood experiences through her life as a politician, then her life as representative of the Queen of England in British Columbia.
Wade Davis and Gail Percy are anthropologists by training, both with rich experiences of many cultures, yet their relationship to Ealue and the Stikine are rooted in a more human and relational approach rather than focussed on exploring the ethnographic landscape.  Wade stated that he will not "act the anthropologist" rather that he is working on longitudinal research with the Tahltan First Nation that is far more participatory that the countless other fly-in-fly-out anthropologists that show up into this area of Northern B.C. Both Wade and Gail find a connection to this land that goes beyond the beauty of it alone.  It resembles positive and negative memories that construct a frame of belonging and sense of place.  Wade talked about recently seeing the Stikine and Spatsizi area as "a garden that he knows all the plants and animals in" which is in contrast to his first experience many years ago when he first arrived in the area and it resembled a place of danger and exposure.  This transition to considering this place as one that nourishes him and Gail was most obvious when Wade took me out on his boat on Ealue Lake.  He talked about knowing all the trails and rock formations down to the square inch and that his daughters are the same way, and "melt" at the mention of returning to Ealue.   Wade's view into the Ealue, Spatsizi, Edziza, and Sacred Headwaters area is nested within the socio-political and cultural landscape of Northern British Columbia. He is a stalwart advocate for its protection.  With published articles and books and a series of lectures as a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, he is well-known for his advocacy work. Much of this work to protect natural and cultural systems stems from the early experiences of growing up in Montreal, where language and cultural differences fascinated him.  He links these early experiences to the work as a park ranger in Spatsizi, where working with the Tahltan people enabled a deepened view of how he relates in and amongst culture and nature.  When he talks about returning to his childhood home in Point Claire in Montreal his sentence "Shadows marked the ground where trees had fallen in my absence.  Any new construction, I took as a personal affront" speaks to his considered view of how past plays a role in his current life. View the two films of Wade and Gail and let me know what you see!
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Dr. Wade Davis, National Geographic explorer-in-residence, anthropologist, photographer, writer, father, and husband with Gail Percy, anthropologist, adventurer, and wife shared stories about their summer home on Ealue Lake and experiences in the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Provincial Park and Mt. Edziza Provincial Park.  Wade has been coming to this North-western BC since his early twenties, as the first park ranger when it was only accessible by a rough patchwork of logging roads.
Wade Davis & Gail Percy
Wade on Ealue Lake and Montréal
Wade Davis and Gail Percyon Ealue, Edziza, and Spatsizi
Ealue Lake, Spatsizi area and Approaching the Sacred Headwaters