“The Spiritual Part of Teaching”
Although David Blair may be best known for co-founding the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough, he also played a key role in the early development of the Harris Center’s environmental education program.
“Nature’s all around us. Culture is too, but it’s not always so obvious. We can react with fear to what we may not be familiar with – such as a snake in nature or people who may seem unlike us – or we can be curious and delighted by the differences we see and build a feeling of connection to nature that surrounds us or to people. That’s the spiritual part of teaching – sharing that sense of beauty in the world and the important part we play in it as sharers of creation.”
David has always loved being outdoors, but he credits his early training in Meade Cadot’s geology and ornithology classes at Antioch University New England for heightening his awareness of the diversity and beauty of the natural world. More than four decades have passed since then, during which David has admired Meade’s perseverance in land protection.
“That the SuperSanctuary exists is fantastic. I give Meade tremendous credit for his vision.”
Growing the Education Program
It was Meade who asked David to come to the Harris Center, to help grow our elementary education program. From 1977 through the spring of 1985, David served as our Education Director. Working with an intern from Antioch each year, David expanded the environmental education program into all the elementary and middle schools in the ConVal school district, as well as the Jaffrey, Stoddard, and Harrisville elementary schools.
“I had tremendous freedom to create new units that sometimes went into great depth. It was a wonderful thing to be able to improvise and create! Our geographic scope expanded greatly, and we became really rooted, particularly in ConVal, because we offered something to all classes.”
David’s energy and creativity didn’t end with the schools. He also created adult community programs and workshops, from constructing a greenhouse to planning a small livestock fair to pruning fruit trees for biodynamic orchards. He has certainly left his stamp on the Harris Center, and on the lives of the many students and interns he mentored over the years.
“When you do the kind of work that teacher-naturalists do, working with many hundreds of children a year, it can be harder to know the impact than if you’re a classroom teacher. But I still think we can have confidence that the joy we share and the curiosity we foster in a child will have an impact on that life and on others, whose life is touched by that child.”
David left his role at the Harris Center in 1985 to embark on a new adventure: working in the Philippines and Vietnam. He and his family remained overseas for five years before returning to the Monadnock Region, sharing their love and appreciation of the world at large in innovative ways.
The Harris Center is grateful to David for his creative, energizing, early work with our education program, which continues to provide enriching opportunities for so many children — just as he envisioned.
“I feel connected to the entire mission of the Harris Center, but the school program is at the heart of it for me, particularly the fact that it’s in the public schools, so all children have the opportunity to be outside with skilled teacher-naturalists.”
For more information on the Harris Center’s 50th anniversary celebrations, please contact Lisa Murray at (603) 525-3394 or by email.