A dinosaur grapples with technology's place in education

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Fungal Network


The Culture and Identity strand of the Liger Learning Center is now up on its Khmer feet, seeking distant horizons. We began by examining and photographing on the Liger campus itself, driven by the question: Which things here feel native to my culture and which feel alien? As we began on an Arts Wednesday, a secondary discussion also occurred: What makes a compelling and effective photo? The students roved over the campus in pairs, limited to two pictures per team (in the age of digital photography, the temptation is to shoot non-stop and stop 'looking' for the shot). This way they at least had to shoot and then delete and I didn't end up with 500 photos in my dropbox. This segued into a brainstorm of Khmer indicators for future study. We came up with 4 and a hmmmm. Government and Royalty; The Arts; Food (production, marketing, consumption); Religion and Custom.  The 'hmmmm' includes sports, games, jobs, industry, etc.

What better place to start than Food!
 What better place to begin a study of food than the mighty fungi kingdom!
We dove in with a look at a personal hero, Paul Stamets- Mr. Mycology himself.
Here is the clip we watched, well worth two minutes twenty-five seconds of time, shot by the grandmaster of stop time photography, Louie Schwartzberg:

Subsequently we looked at photos and drawings of mushrooms and drew them, followed by a rumination: What do I think I know about mushrooms? What questions can I ask to find out more?
 The photo above is an example. 
Increasingly, I believe observation and drawing are as important skills as listening or writing. A deeper neural understanding may in fact enter through the eye and exit through the drawing hand, or may reach a different and no less important part of our intellect/heart than the linguistic. We spend 12 years or so in school honing literacy and numeracy skills. Given the state of humanity- could equal time given to musical/visual/dance skills harm? 

We see it, we think it, we draw it. Then we go touch it and smell it and see it in person.

The follow-up from this morning.
We headed down the road a piece in the school tuk tuk and bus to visit our local mushroomery. We were met by the terrifically gracious owner who gave the students a 45 minute tour of the operation, including an extended question and answer session. This happened not just once but twice! Each group had 4 photographers and six reporters documenting the event.
Since all the information was in Khmer, I had to garner all my information through my eyes.

The process begins with rubber tree sawdust from Vietnam. Something happens to this. It changes in color and texture. This new mix is packed into small bags.

The bags are sorted and sealed.
Then they go into a big steam chamber and a fire is lit under the chamber which burns for hours and hours.
These are broken open and repacked into new bags. To kill all bacteria? (Note to self- Get back on the Khmer learning track!)

 These are dosed with spores from a small glass bottle. The spores emerge from a separate process, equally mysterious to this cub reporter.
They get stacked up and covered with black tarps to provide a cover of darkness. For up to six months they provide mushrooms.
This particular iteration of medium is all but spent and will soon be replaced.

The proprietor of this thriving business was a security guard at Saboon's last project. He researched and learned the craft on his own outside any school. He began the business entirely on his own, with nothing.

It was a lesson in nature, in agriculture, in business.

It was super cool.


And then you are holding this marvel, and you see it in its marvelousness.


There will be more where that came from...


More marvelous still than the mushrooms or this sprouting business...


The Liger students themselves- their boundless focus and curiosity; their appetite for knowing.

1 comment:

  1. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I'm looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it! capital one login

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