by Institute for Humane Education
Kathleen Beck is an IHE M.Ed. graduate and an environmental educator who lives, teaches, and performs in the Southern California back country of the peninsular mountain range of Julian.
We asked her to share about her work for a better world.
IHE: What drew you to becoming a humane educator?
KB: What initially drew me to the field of humane education was my work in the literal fields of outdoor education. I saw the results of experiential nature camp at work in the consciousness of many a human child.
Singing songs of nature on the trail cements the lessons learned, as songs leave traces in the memory more durable than sentences. My knowledge of this, and the fact that no one person can teach the love of nature better than nature herself, continues to be a resounding theme in my work as an environmental educator.
For me, being a humane educator means teaching through music, art, and play. That which is loved tends to be protected. Therefore, getting folks to fall in love with nature through the magic triad of music, beauty, and hiking has become the path to humane ethics.
IHE: You’ve engaged in educating others through a variety of initiatives and means. Tell us about some of your favorites.
KB: One of my goals was to deliver a sustainable menu to the local students in my school district. With the mentoring of veteran staff gardener Tricia Elisara, and the aid of the film festival held in our township in Julian, California, the deed was accomplished!
We now have sustainably produced, locally sourced foods for the local students, with a local chef at the helm to create the lunch menus. My role as garden educator at the local school for two years brought students’ awareness of their diet to the forefront, where they then planned, grew, harvested, and prepared locally grown vegetables and fruits.
Also, halfway through a 25-year career in at an outdoor science school, I became a Lorax, speaking on behalf of the natural world in public forums. Protecting public parks from badly planned energy projects in Southern California became a natural inclination, as I learned about implementing green energies for my area. From there, I planned public rallies and spoke at many public comment events, while writing songs to address the issues.
IHE: Currently you and your husband use socially conscious music to inspire and empower others. Tell us about that journey. What led to pursuing singing and songwriting?
KB: During the Occupy movement, I sang to my city council members in San Diego a song that I had composed, called “Moral Evolution.” Suddenly the song filled the room, causing all to take note.
Singing and songwriting have always been a natural since childhood, as my dad was a music teacher from our home. Many bands later, I met Jim Lydick while traveling through Mexico, and many a connection was turned on between the two. Jim is also an artist, musician, environmental educator, and kindred spirit.
IHE: How do you go about writing a song that entertains while also incorporating a meaningful message? Can you give a specific example of how you’ve done that through one of your songs?
KB: One of our songs is called “Cuándo,” which means “When?” In Spanish. The song asks, “When will we wake up and grow beyond all that we have learned? And melt away all of the lies? And create the world we know we can? And share the smiles we deserve?”
This is a song that means much to Jim and me, as we strive to paint a reality closer to happiness for the whole of humanity. We worked with a co-worker who is a native Spanish speaker for the translation.
Love of Latinx cultures, music, and art are the pillars that help inform our work as we strive to understand our nation’s current media scene. Latin American cultures seem to embrace the idea of community, which our country sometimes lacks.
At times the lyrics take a satirical turn, as in “Plantation Owner” and “Agenda.” Both songs reflect an ultra-conservative mirror in a comical sense.
IHE: Who are your heroes?
KB: Currently, my heroines are: Greta Thunberg, who addressed the UN on global climate change. Emma Gonzalez, who is fighting for gun control in Florida. The Earth Guardians, Magdelena and Rio — two kids who confronted Dianne Feinstein about the New Green Deal. My granddaughter Livia, who is studying at UCSD in a program involving evolutionary psychology, and many other outspoken youth concerned about the fate of our world. They give me hope!
IHE: What are your future humane education plans?
KB: My future plans include further travel with Jim, spreading our music to Europe, Mexico, and beyond. Learning more music with international people from other countries and languages is a goal, due to their unique perspective on the current US phenomenon. This summer we will be in Spain for almost three months, walking the Camino de Santiago with our granddaughter and hoping to meet people with unique perspectives.
Our biggest personal goal is to build bridges wherever we go!
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