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LEARNING BY WALKING. IN THE CITY AND IN NATURE

L. Ottolini1, M. Guerra2

1Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
2Università di Milano-Bicocca (ITALY)
Learning left behind its static form some time ago and opening up to dynamicity has introduced new and modern methods in educational processes.

With this contribution, we want to document some of these, through the particular point of view that associates four words: learning-walking and city-nature.

Curiously, the word walking claims, amongst its meanings, the figurative ones of “proceeding, progressing”, which is comparable to that of learning in the sense of “learning by experience”.

To walk you have to take notice of your steps, be cautious on the points of support, understand the next and most opportune step to take and raise your level of attention, exactly as when we are learning.

The notion of movement recalls that of the context in which we move: in our case, we walk in the city and in nature.
We experimented “learning by walking” with university students on different courses: architecture and education.
We went with them through the streets and neighbourhoods of the city, along natural paths and in woods.
We conducted cognitive experiences with them which involved space and its inhabitants, both people and things.
We spoke, collected, documented and returned.
We studied and discovered who neighbourhoods, which we had known before only on paper and in books, by walking through the streets, observing the architecture, interviewing the inhabitants, asking them about their “desiderata” and then, designing for them.
We walked through natural landscapes. we collected fragments of them and we recomposed them in new images and suggestions to be transferred to the space of our daily lives.

The objective that links these experiences, in both contexts, is that of stimulating, through explorations of an experimental type and direct actions on the local community, an ability of critical observation of the spaces we live in and in which, often absent-mindedly, we move.

The paper presents some of the above experiences carried out in recent years in Italy, also thanks to the contribution of cultural associations already active in the places concerned. The methods and the education potential are analysed, with a view to proposing them again in diversified contexts.