Welcome to CIRCE

Welcome to the website of the Centre for Imagination in Research, Culture and Education, an international research centre affiliated with the Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, Canada.

Welcome to CIRCE

We are interested in imagination in all its varied forms. Our deepest roots are in education, and many of us work directly with educators, schools and other site of learning and teaching. At the same time, we recognize the countless ways in which imagination is entwined with the world – not only human culture and societies, but the life of the Earth itself.

Our website showcases work of value for teachers and outdoor educators, educational leaders, researchers, activists and organizations working for social change, and all those concerned with how education can respond to the current ecological and climate crises. Through News, Views and Events you can keep track of our thinkings and doings as they continue to unfold.

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For Educators

The origins of CIRCE lie in Kieran Egan’s groundbreaking work on Imaginative Education. In this section of the website you can find out more about Egan’s theories, his ideas on how to work with children’s imaginations, and a wide array of teacher resources designed to support learning both inside and outside schools.

A major focus of CIRCE’s work has been on teaching that connects learners with the natural world. You can find a variety of ideas and strategies on this under Imaginative Ecological Education and in the Wild Pedagogies section. In the section on Eco-Schools, the work of teachers is re-imagined in the context of schools oriented towards learning directly from nature as a co-teacher.

Of course, schools are not the only places where teaching and learning take place. CIRCE’s work on educational responses to the ecological and climate crises has led us to propose The 4 Cs of Eco-Social-Cultural Change – four orientations guiding the work of educators for educational transformation. Much of this work goes on at the community level, outside the structures of formal education; sometimes it can happen in schools as well.

For Researchers

As a university centre, CIRCE is directly engaged with a variety of forms of research involving undergraduate and graduate students, pre-service and in-service teachers, educational leaders and community members, and university faculty in many places. You can read about some of our work in the section on Projects and Initiatives, and get to know some of the CIRCE academic community in the pages About Us.

CIRCE’s origins in the Imaginative Education Research Group mean that The work of Kieran Egan remains of key importance for many of our projects and programs. Others continue to build on Egan’s work; you can keep in touch with ongoing developments through Further research on imaginative education, which includes an up-to-date database of publications. Teachers in our Master’s program in imaginative education continue to carry out valuable Classroom research on IE. A new strand of research looks at Imaginative leadership through an IE lens.

Key figures in CIRCE also led the development of the methodology of Ecoportraiture, an approach to exploring how human learning is shaped and informed by the more-than-human. As more and more communities become interested in the possibilities of Eco-Schools, there is a growing need for educational research which includes nature as co-teacher and co-researcher, rather than treating it simply as the background or curriculum for what people do. These pages offer an introduction to ideas that are taken up at greater length in the book Ecoportraiture (Peter Lang, 2022).

For Leaders and Change-Makers

Imagination is of vital importance to leadership in all areas of society. CIRCE is especially interested in the role of education in responding to the ecological and climate crises. This has led us to explore the nature of Imagination in leadership, both in schools and elsewhere, and to consider the range of ways in which educators seek to foster and support grassroots change. This latter work led us to propose The 4 Cs of Eco-Social-Cultural Change – four educational orientations embedded in all efforts to bring about fundamental social transformation.

CIRCE has also been involved in a variety of efforts to establish Eco-Schools – schools in which learning outdoors and with the natural world plays a central role. We have produced an extensive guide to the kinds of issues that are worth thinking about in this context. We see the potential for a much greater range of approaches to teaching and learning in the context of eco-schools, including drawing on the ideas and practices of Wild Pedagogies.

Research is rarely seen as a fundamental component of leadership. Yet as CIRCE’s work on Ecoportraiture demonstrates, sustained inquiry into learning with and from the more-than-human world can itself be a powerful force for eco-educational change. This transformative methodology is less about finding answers than about asking better questions – about learning to participate more deeply in the conversations of the Earth.

Imaginative education

Imaginative Education (IE) is a way of teaching, and of working with the curriculum, that reliably taps into students’ emotional and imaginative lives. IE pays attention to how the human imagination works and changes throughout the process of child development; it employs the learning tools—or “cognitive tools”—that engage and develop imagination, not only in children of all ages, but also in adults.

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Learning in depth

In the original conception of LiD, a child is given a particular topic to learn about through her or his whole school career, in addition to the usual curriculum, and builds a personal portfolio on the topic. The program usually takes about an hour a week, with the students working outside school time increasingly. It is possible for individual teachers to implement LiD with a single class over the course of a year, but the greatest benefits are seen when an entire school adopts the program and both children and teachers can experience the growth of knowledge over a number of years.

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Walking curriculum

The Walking Curriculum emerged out of Dr. Gillian Judson’s work on Imaginative Ecological Education. In 2018 she published an innovative interdisciplinary resource for educators K-12 who want to take student learning outside school walls.

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News, views, and events

Click below to find out more information on CIRCE, latest updates, announcements and more.
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Imagination and the More-Than-Human


By Mark Fettes. A few months ago, at the COP15 conference on biodiversity in Montreal, Canadian anthropologist Wade Davis gave […]


Cultivating Imagination in Leadership


By Meaghan Dougherty and Gillian Judson. Our educational ecosystem is increasingly complex.  In North America, we are engaged in educational […]


Walking with Wolfgang Klafki (1)


By Sean Blenkinsop So, welcome to my first blog. Given that I have never done one and really don’t understand […]