Mandela Day & World Listening Day
Saturday, July 18, 2020

The practice of seeking connections between the global, the local, and the personal is one of the five pillars of Playful Inquiry—the learning approach of Portland Children's Museum and Opal School.

Providing opportunities for children to interpret what they see in their world—to ask questions, to express their feelings, and share what they notice—so that they can see themselves reflected in that world invites them to explore ways in which they are a part of things much bigger than themselves. 

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Nelson Mandela International Day and World Listening Day are both observed each year on July 18. Learn more about the intersection of these two movements HERE, as explored in Issue 9 of our weekly Museum@Home email series.

While the two humans behind these global days of celebration (which commemorate their shared birth date) are from different parts of the globe with vastly different world experiences, their life’s work both provokes and invites us to listen so that we might be inspired by our global and local communities towards meaningful learning and personal action. 

Adults play a critical role in pulling the threads of those connections towards children so that they can put them in their own hands, give them a tug, and see what happens next.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela worked to end apartheid, racism, poverty, and systemic injustices. Canadian composer and music educator R. Murray Schafer developed the field of acoustic ecology, which has helped to foster understanding of the world and its natural environment, societies, and cultures through the practices of listening and field recording.

What surprises can be found when exploring the intersection of the important contributions of these individuals?

The practice of seeking connections could lead towards the generative space that exists in the intersection of freedom, peace, reconciliation, and acoustic ecology. It opens the door to Playful Inquiry—developing big, unanswerable questions that puzzle, confound, concern, and engage. It is not an effort to accumulate knowledge that already exists in the world. Though that may happen, it is not prized as an end in itself. 

Where can adults look to get there?

Perhaps we can get there by looking at something that Mandela once said: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

In what ways might listening in new ways to the world around us help us learn better how to love? How might the activities we do (shared HERE) help us reflect on the ease with which the human heart learns to love? Something else Mandela said:

“We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.” How might inviting children to explore the world though their own senses help them find the world in their own hands?

As adults seek these connections, we open the door to Playful Inquiry, developing big, unanswerable questions that puzzle, confound, concern, and engage us. The theme for this year’s World Listening Day is "The Collective Field." They ask: How does your song fit within the collective chorus?

Here is a pattern that connects—where it becomes easy to see the ways in which Nelson Mandela's legacy and The World Listening Project complement and strengthen one another. Here it is easy to see a place from which we all—children and adults together—might find something new, surprising, meaningful, and loving.

If you engage in activities with children that encourage you to explore a part of your local world by paying attention in unusual ways, or find and share meaningful stories, or create opportunities to listen and reflect on how conflicts resolve, or dance to good music and laugh and smile—and you bring your own awareness to it—you will create a collective chorus in which all your songs belong. You will hold the world in your hands and nurture love for it in ways you can build on tomorrow. When seeking connections between seemingly disparate things, doors open towards something no one has thought of yet.