At the Heart of Art and Earth

An Exploration of Practices in Arts-Based Environmental Education
Jan van Boeckel, 2013 (third edition 2017).

What begins to happen when we seek to connect to the natural world primarily through art, rather than pre-established scientific knowledge? In At the Heart of Art and Earth, Jan van Boeckel explores the kind of learning that takes place through arts-based environmental education. As we approach phenomena indirectly and invite the unforeseen, we grope our way forward and multiple meanings can come forth.


The third edition of At the Heart of Art and Earth, the doctoral dissertation of Jan van Boeckel is now printed (Feb. 2017). The book has 420 pages, and includes several colored illustrations.

Below is a review by Prof. Carl Leggo of the Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, Canada:

Jan van Boeckel’s doctoral dissertation, At the Heart of Art and Earth, is a remarkable creative and scholarly accomplishment. I commend Jan for an engaging and evocative dissertation that is exemplary in innovative conception, comprehensive research, intricate organization, artful expression, and insightful interpretation. Jan’s dissertation is like a palimpsest, a complex layering of many texts, both visual and verbal, and the traces of interwoven texts, past and present, are skillfully and creatively rendered.
This text has texture. It acknowledges its many connections to other texts in an intertextual weaving that composes spaces where readers/viewers can linger in a collaborative rewriting of the dissertation by bringing their stories, memories, and insights to a proliferation of re-searching. Jan’s dissertation represents an expansive and comprehensive investigation of the possibilities and challenges involved in teaching, researching, and supporting arts-based environmental education.
Jan has composed a dissertation that is stunning in its originality. He has woven art, poetry, images, phenomenological interpretations, stories, ruminations, and citations into a text that, on the one hand, explores insightfully the conceptualizing and theorizing of issues around artistic processes and practices, nature, ecology, pedagogy, mentorship, wonder, hermeneutics, artful knowing, and writing, and, on the other hand, performs inventive and imaginative understandings of these issues. In other words, Jan’s dissertation is an exemplary demonstration of how academic research can be pursued with a performative approach to language, especially with attention to how language in all its manifestations (textual, artistic, semiotic, poetic, visual) both constructs and deconstructs our understanding of human knowing, being, and becoming.