About Wendy Agnew, PhD

Wendy with mentor ...

Wendy has conducted long-term educational initiatives in Africa, Asia, and North America since 1979. Her focus is emergent, child-centred learning, life skills education and active engagement with environment as progenitor, mentor, and muse. She is a founding member of Sustainability Frontiers, two nature-framed theatre companies and a citizens group dedicated to environmental reform and her students’ vibrant eco-aware murals may be seen on three continents. Wendy’s publications form an eclectic blend of poetry, prose, and academic writings highlighting creative collaboration for peace and sustainability. Works include: ‘The Poetics of Science in Constructing Eco-Identity’ in Green Frontiers: Environmental Educators Dancing Away from Mechanism and ‘Weaving Change: Improvising Global Wisdom in Interesting and Dangerous Times’ in Education and Climate Change: Living and Learning in Interesting Times. She believes the arts to be a vital link between nature, culture, and future.

If we kill off the wild, then we are killing a part of our souls. - Jane Goodall

Having tried desperately to extricate herself from the educational system, Wendy capitulated, became a Montessori teacher and developed an appreciation for the creative genius of human invention. Her students’ desire for embodied learning inspired her to advance her B.A. in literature with courses in drama at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. This led to an extensive career in performing, writing, and directing that surprised, delighted, and shocked unsuspecting Canadian audiences for over a decade. After co-founding the provocative Blue People Eco-Theatre Phenomenon in Toronto, Wendy heard the call of convention and returned to the Montessori fold with an enhanced appreciation for the arts as agents of change and nature as director of transformations.

She facilitated a series of whole-school arts extravaganzas dedicated to the human-in-nature conundrum, co-founded the dance/theatre company, Foreign Feet, and qualified as an elementary and adolescent guide. In 2001 she completed Montessori teacher-education training and in 2002 and 2007, convocated from the University of Toronto with an M.A. then a Ph.D. in open systems praxis. She has come to believe that education must sustain and enrich robust dialogues with other-than-human systems.

Wendy was bitten by wanderlust at an early age when she traveled with her Uncle Russ to rehabilitate angst-ridden racehorses across the province of Saskatchewan. As a result, her work expands from a humane and humanitarian core that honours sentience in nature. She journeyed from Agios Nikolaos, Crete, overland to Timbuktu, arriving in London, England, where she managed community arts-based Inter-Action’s inner city farm (documented in A Chronicle of Stumbles). Her visual eco-literacy projects (Maputo, Toronto, Kitchener) position imagination as pre-requisite to earth-aware epistemologies (documented in The Universe is a Horse). In 2004 she was invited to Iran, where, over a period of seven years, she helped found and develop Tehran’s first Montessori school. This work features practical, emergent and child-centred learning as germinal to democracy, peace, and civic agency.

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. - Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

Her work in Canada involves curriculum and material development with in-service and student teachers featuring a methodology that advances practical skills, independence, collaboration, and emergent learning. She served as course designer, consultant, lecturer and field supervisor for the Toronto Montessori Institute and the Montessori Teacher's College in Toronto. Since 1994, she has been creative consultant, teacher, program designer, and cultural facilitator for The Sunshine Montessori School in Kitchener, Ontario for elementary and junior high as well as engaging in a diversity of independent consultancy projects stimulating life skills linkages.

Wendy’s work with children and adolescents is predicated on the play of active semiotic engagement with environment. Her long term, earth-aware initiatives include Project Centaur: Innovations in inter-species, inter-age mentoring programs, Soir Blanche: Multi-media eco-arts Mardi Gras, Muralizing From Wall to Bridge: Eco-visual dialogues between children, nature, and the University of Toronto, Metamorphosis: Site-specific video production on the Oak Ridges Moraine , From There to Retirement: A social history of crises through the arts and the aged, The Ancestor Project: Living history through family story, The Greats: Dramatized vignettes of those who change the world, Transforming Through Shakespeare: Site-Specific, student-based video productions , The Tree of Ideals: A Permanent and Evolving Installation celebrating student's commitment to sustainable futures, and Earth Dialogues: An International Round Square School collaboration, to name but a few cross-cultural, land-and-memory based programs.

Transformation happens at the margins of self, society, and environment. Wendy’s passion is to voice the exchange between old worlds and new – whether facilitating a children’s lobby for the reinstatement of the Wild Horse and Burro Act, leading theatre professionals and educators in silent improvisations with wilderness , or exploring the interface between quantum physics, chaos theory, and eco-literacy (The University is a Horse: Autopoietic Education for Technoprosaic Times).

She has accepted peer requests to speak at and present masters' workshop on Embodied Learning for: The International Conference in Holistic Learning; Tehran's Shahid Mahdavi Educational Complex’s symposium on alternative pedagogy; the North American Montessori Teacher Association’s Orientation to Adolescent Studies; the University of Toronto’s Dean’s Graduate Student Research Conference, Bermuda's Somersfield Academy Conference on Embodied Learning, and Canadian Association of Montessori Teacher’s International Conferences . Her series of workshops and speaking engagements are specifically designed to stimulate frontiers of change while deepening principles of conservation.

Wendy lives close to Luther Marsh, in Damascus, Ontario. She is a founding member and vice president of The Damascus Lake Trail Association (formerly Friends of Luther Marsh)