grass vetchling on wastelandI always love it when a chance happening opens up a new world. My latest experience of this was a few months back when spotting an unusual wildflower as I was walking through some local wasteland. I managed to identify it when I got home (a grass vetchling), and my ancient wildflower book suggested it was quite a rare find in Scotland. When going online to try to verify this, I came across the brilliant iNaturalist and have been hooked ever since.

iNaturalist is a global community of people supporting each other to identify all forms of wildlife and, in doing so, creating a very useful set of findings. It works because

  • anyone can do it. You don’t need expertise or fancy equipment to take part.
  • it’s supportive. People with specialist knowledge will help you out and work with you, not judge you.
  • you can choose your own path, exploring the things that interest you most and taking it as seriously or casually as you want.

And to me, these are the factors that should exist in any learning. As learners, we need to feel welcome, supported and in control. As educators, we should be inclusive, working with people to find their way along their learning journey.

an overgrown sluice gateNext month, I’ll be joining another supportive community, Antiuniversity Now, to share my iNaturalist learning so far and hear others’ stories on what happened when their local industry closed down and what they’ve uncovered on their local wasteland. We’ll be shaping the session together. It won’t be fancy or academic but it should be good DIY learning. You can find out more and sign up here – and do explore the rest of the programme too, there’s a wide range of radical education on offer for free.