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Doctoral student Lee Beavington announced as a finalist for SSHRC Storytellers competition

May 20, 2020

Congratulations to Lee Beavington, a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University!

Beavington was recently announced as one of the top 25 finalists in this year’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Storytellers competition.

SSHRC’s Storytellers, an annual competition, challenges postsecondary students from around the country to show Canadians, in up to three minutes or 300 words, how social sciences and humanities research is affecting our lives, our world and our future for the better.

Beavington’s piece Bringing Biology Back to Life is told through videography. Bringing Biology Back to Life highlights his research focus on remarrying science and philosophy, allowing nature to be one’s teacher and getting outside of the classroom to feel engaged and connected with our planet.

Q&A with Lee Beavington

What inspired you to tell this story?

I’ve been blessed with opportunities to teach and research in wild locations that are both tremendous in their biodiversity and full of profound wonder.

I shot and edited all the footage. Yet with the exception of the first segment, every second of footage was serendipitous. That is, while engaged with the natural world, I noticed something that caught my eye. So, I pulled my camera out of my pocket, and tried to capture that wonder (or, in a few cases, the destruction of said wonder). I served as witness to the ordinary beauty that is revealed when we are attentive and tuned in.

I also took the Fall 2019 President's Dream Colloquium course at SFU: Creative Ecologies: Reimagining the World. This provided a supportive and inspiring space to work on this project. 

What obstacles did you face? How did you overcome them to present your story?

I've been extremely blessed to travel to remote wild locations for both my teaching and scholarship. Trips to the flooded Amazon River, as part of Kwantlen Polytechnic University's Amazon Field School, and the melting glaciers of Norway, as part of the Wild Pedagogies Colloquium, proved transformative for myself. However, I'm not sure how to reconcile my carbon footprint. In fact, while I flew over the Atlantic Ocean toward Oslo, Greta Thunberg was somewhere below me heading to America on a fossil-free sailboat. I think a paradigm shift is needed where we fly less and connect locally more.  

Also, I wanted to use something more advanced than iMovie. Yet various factors prevented this from happening. So, I heeded the advice of my favourite artist, Peter Gabriel: “When you put an obstacle in front of an artist, they get creative.” There were times when I thought “iMovie won’t let me do this!” and then, through some persistence, I found a workaround that turned out even better than originally conceived.

What do you want people to take away from your story?

First, that direct experience in the natural world is vital. For our health, clarity and general well-being, but also to remind us of the deep interrelatedness of our planet. We are nature.

Second, that science education has an opportunity to be a leader in this area. Students can go through their first year of biology instruction at a university without stepping outside once. This, to me, is not only a lost opportunity, but a sign of how far we have removed ourselves from being connected to the wild.

Third, to get yourself and your family outside every single day.

Visit the Storyteller's Gallery and follow #SSHRCStorytellers on Twitter to find out more about the lead-up to the 2021 Storytellers Showcase.