Everything you need to know, you can learn from skateboarding.
I have worked on my farm with skateboarders. My son-in-law and some of his friends are skateboarders. Skateboarders are amazing, creative, and bright people.
I once interviewed two teenage skateboarders about environmental issues. I interviewed them as part of my dissertation research. They had worked alongside me at Rainshadow Farm when we began establishing the learning center here. They were two intelligent, lively, and very creative and motivated young people. I learned so much from them.
I found their views of skateboarding phenomenological and deeply environmental.
They both talked about the profound connection they feel to the natural world as they skateboard.
They mentioned things like the texture of the pavement and ground changing under their feet, “the qualities of sand, pebble, rock, cement,” and the ground’s curvature as the feel of it traveled up from their feet through their bodies.
They spoke of how “there is only the board and wheels between your body and the earth.”
Both of them spent a lot of time outdoors and were both very aware of weather patterns on an hourly basis and qualities of light and dark.
They talked about moment by moment feeling the air on your skin.
One of these young people mentioned that “it is too hard to be indoors too long,” and that he “needs to feel his body in the sun, the wind, and the rain to feel good.”
One of these young people said that as he skated through the high desert, he would feel distinct pain when he saw trash dumping in the high desert – to him, to love the land was “like taking care of your own body.”
Both young skateboarders had a finely honed sense of place, a love of the landscape, and a definite land ethic which they had developed as skateboarders.
Someone I know told me that he knew surfers with the same approach to their environment.
Whenever I used to do field archaeology, I felt the same way. I had a place to be and a sense of caring about that place. Since most of my work has been in the high desert, and I’ve travelled all around the bounds of this high desert, I’ve developed a sense of place here that rivals the sense of place I learned growing up in northwestern Ohio, which was substantial. I was a child outdoors back then, in all season, in all weather, in all variations of environment. Walking and biking and playing and sitting.
Outdoor sports and outdoor sciences are a way to learn how to develop and foster a variety of intelligences about the natural world and human impact upon it.
Their words essentially described a phenomenology of skateboarding. One of these young people mentioned that she always felt “deeply connected to the land – whatever land I find myself in.”
I got to know the teens I’ve mentioned when they were in one of my college classes and they expressed an interest in learning about organic gardening.
Perhaps this is one reason that they are both attracted to gardening: gardening holds the same phenomenological attractions.
They are both older now. I’ve stayed in touch. They are married to each other and preparing, both, to graduate with university degrees in mathematics. They want to teach high school math eventually, both of them. This is wonderful because the more teachers out there with a deeply phenomenological sense of place, the better for environmental learning.
These two young people still love nature and they are masterful gardeners.
And they still skate.