what i have been meaning to tell you
the garden
achillea millefolium
in dutch a weed is called 'onkruid'.
i asked the students if they knew other words that start with the word 'on'. together we spoke about the meaning of 'on', and came to the conclusion it means 'not', so a weed is 'not-a-herb'. a non-herb. in a short introduction i presented them with images of some common weeds they might have seen in and around their garden and asked if they were able to name them. for each weed, i showed them both a photo and a botanical illustration and explained to them that in the past drawings were made of plants, as close to reality as possible. in the drawings some special features of the plant were highlighted: enlarged, cut in half, and named. the plant itself is named too, i explained to them. everything we know, has once been named. although we might not know, everything around us has a name.
since spring, i have been working at an allotment. together with local elderly volunteers, every week about 100 children take care of their own plot of land. together, we tend the land. every week we planted beans, carrots, beetroot, dahlia, corn, sunflowers, and slowly watched the plants grow. each at their own speed. we worked in the sun, in the rain. we watered our plants with the rain that was gathered. we took care of other plots, when we were done tending our own. this year, the nature centre was asked to provide additional classes for the students to gain some more in depth knowledge of the processes that take place when they grow their produce.
every day we would start our afternoon at the allotment, mostly weeding. for this class i would make sure the students would be aware of the task they were engaging with. by helping them weed and asking them questions about the process some thoughts on the act of weeding were already raised: what are we removing? what is staying? who decides and why? what do we do with what we take out? is it wasted or can it still be used? and what for? do you think we can eat this? after 45 minutes working in the garden, we would wash our hands in rain water and walk to the nearby nature centre, where my additional class would start.
i explained how all plants have a name which often also tells something about its characteristics. in dutch, but also in latin. we started with the nettle, 'brandnetel', a plant which they will probably all recognize and have had experience with its characteristics. after speaking about 'branden', to burn, i showed them the meaning of 'urere' is burning in latin as well.

next was 'boterbloem' and we collectively tried to guess its name. 'lemon flower because it's yellow!' someone yelled. after we found out its name, we spoke about butter and why it could apply: 'miss, do they make butter out of it?' 'maybe the leaves are just as soft as butter?' 'maybe because it's yellow? because when the butter is old it looks a bit like the yellow on the screen', sarah replied.
i told them the latin name, which holds the word 'rana', which is latin for 'frog'. we spoke about frogs and how they live in the water, so the plant must probably love moist soil.
we ended the introduction with the dandelion. i asked them if all plants we talked about have been weeds. everyone nodded in agreement. all plants we discussed are not welcome in their allotment garden. i then showed them a slide of the dandelion: how its leafs serve as a salad, how its roots can be ground into coffee, how the flower is used as tea. i re-raised the question: should we still consider the dandelion a weed, seeing all the ways we can use it? the students were uncertain. probably not.
‘when our language honours the animacy of all life forms we are able to come into relationships of reciprocity rather than exploitation.’
piet zwart institute master education in arts
an exercise by lisanne janssen spring 2021
we then went outside and all students received a clipboard, a piece of paper and a pencil. they were invited to look at all the plants that surround them as if they didn't know them and choose one plant to carefully observe and make a botanical drawing of it. what are the characteristics they see? how does it grow? how does it feel? after drawing, the students were invited to name the plant they just observed.

while they were drawing outside in
the sun, i'd handed them something to drink. at the end of the class, when we walked back to the allotment, i told them the iced-tea we drank was also
a weed: nettle.
‘Better perceiving is the necessary starting point to different ways, to creative changes in personal and collective decision making and lifestyles.’
‘understanding without imagination is doctrine without growth. and without growth, what chance is there to engage the complexity that bounds us?’
bell hooks, 'Engaged Pedagogy,' in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom p13-22
‘conscientization: critical awareness brought about by active engagement’
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Grammar of Animacy, p18
'engaging directly with materials can help rebuild connections to the natural world and challenge our loss of affinity to nature, what writer richard louv calls nature deficit disorder.'
Lucy Neal, Playing for Time: Making Art as if the World Mattered, 2015, p262
‘if we wish to notice more, it is a good idea to slow down; and noticing more will itself tend to make you slow down. this is true whatever you focus on.’
Tristan Gooley, How to Connect with Nature, 2014, p49
‘a connection with nature allows us
to see the roots that sustain and explain everything around us.’
Tristan Gooley, How to Connect with Nature, 2014, p9
'the power of the word which makes
the existence of the thing appear and disappear by the simple declaration
of it's name'
Jaques Derrida, Mallarme 1974
Meri-Helga Mantere, Coming Back to the Senses: An Artistic Approach to Environmental Education, 2004
004 005 botanical illustration in the garden: naming the 'onschuldige grijper' (innocent grabber)
003 botanical illustration in the garden
001 botanical illustration in the garden
002 botanical illustration in the garden
'we need to produce situations in which children learn by themselves, in which children can take advantage of their own knowledge and resources… we need to define the role of the adult, not as a transmitter, but as a creator of relationships — relationships not only between people but also between things, between thoughts, with the environment'
Loris Malaguzzi, Your Image of the Child: Where Teaching Begins. Early Childhood Educational Exchange, 1994, p52–61
'if education is about caring for the world we live in, and for its multiple human and non-human inhabitants, then it is not so much about understanding them as it is about restoring them to presence, so that we can attend and respond to what they have to say'
Tim Ingold, Anthropology and/as Education, 2017, p28
‘through communication with the land, we learn new ways of being
in community with each other.'
A Community is a Garden: Tools for Artists, Communities, and Institutions, 2020, p18
Mark Z. Danielewski on Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 2014, p15
006 botanical illustration in the garden
007 botanical illustration in the garden
008 botanical illustration in the garden
009 botanical illustration in the garden
about lisanne
as a multidisciplinary creative and educator, lisanne janssen is intrigued by the way individuals consider and make connections. especially, how humans experience their place, impact and agency within space, time and its interconnections. in her practice, lisanne therefore pays close attention to human’s engagement with physical material, form and function and the role traditional craftsmanship can play as opposed to current production models.

lisanne provides mindful tools and activities that help mend the space between us. a slow and careful process, which requires close attention and care.

everything she does, she approaches with empathy, the feeling of curiosity about who other people are in themselves, and radical openness: the will to explore different perspectives and change one’s mind as new information is presented.

for more information or collaborations:

'all variable aspects of an object exist only
in relation to other objects. it is only in interactions that nature draws the world'
Carlo Rovelli, Reality is not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity, 2017, p35