Wendy Agnew

Jacaranda Blossom

Photo of Wendy AgnewWendy Agnew 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.  Recent 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 (see Publications). She believes the arts to be a vital link between nature, culture, and future.


EductaonHaving 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 in both elementary and adolescent teacher training. In 2001 she became a Montessori teacher-educator and in 2002 and 2007, convocated from the University of Toronto with an M.A. then Ph.D. in open systems praxis. She has come to believe that education must sustain and enrich robust dialogues with other-than-human systems.

WorkWendy 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 honors sentience in nature. She journeyed from Agios Nicolaos, Crete, overland to Timbuktu arriving  London, England, where she managed community arts-based Inter-Action’s inner city farm (documented in A Chronicle of Stumbles, 2002). Her visual eco-literacy projects (Mozambique 2001, Toronto, 2004–2006, Kitchener, Ontario, 1999 to present position imagination as pre-requisite to earth-aware epistemologies (documented in The Universe is a Horse, 2007). 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. 

PlayHer work in Canada involves curriculum and material development with in-service and student teachers featuring a methodology that advances practical skillls, independence, collboration, and emergent learning. She is 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, Ontorio for ages 3 to 14 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 (2005 to date), Soir Blanche: Multi-media eco-arts Mardi Gras (2007-8), Muralizing From Wall to Bridge: Eco-visual dialogues between children, nature, and the University of Toronto, (2004-6), Metamorphosis: Site-specific video production on the Oak Ridges Moraine (2004-5), From There to Retirement: A social history of crises through the arts and the aged (1999-2003), The Ancestor Project: Living history through family story (2003 to date), The Greats: Dramatized vignettes of those who change the world video productions (2003 to date), Transforming Through Shakespeare: Site-Specific, student-based video productions (2006 to date), The Tree of Ideals: A Premanent Installation celebrating student's commitment to sustainable futures (2019)  to name but a few cross-cultural, land-and-memory based programs.

Since 1994, she has been a director, program designer, and cultural facilitator for The Sunshine Montessori School in Kitchener, Ontario, as well as engaging in a diversity of independent consultancy projects stimulating nature/culture/future linkages.

Passion: Sustaining FrontiersTransformation 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 (2004), leading theatre professionals and educators in silent improvisations with wilderness (1992-present), or exploring the interface between quantum physics, chaos theory, and eco-literacy (The University is a Horse: Autopoietic Education for Technoprosaic Times 2003-2007).  She has accepted peer requests to speak at and present masters' workshop on Embodied Learning for:  The International Conference in Holistic Learning (Toronto, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2016); the Shahid Mahdavi Educational Complex’s symposium on alternative pedagogy (Tehran, Iran, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010); the North American Montessori Teacher Association’s Orientation to Adolescent Studies (Cleveland, Ohio, 2003); the University of Toronto’s Dean’s Graduate Student Research Conference (2006), the Toronto Montessori Institute’s workshop on Embodied Learning (Bermuda, 2005), and the Canadian Association of Montessori Teacher’s International Conference (Toronto, 2009, 2014, 10§6).  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, Damascus, Ontario. She is a founding member and vice president of The Damascus Lake Association (formerly Friends of Luther Marsh)

> publications

Contact Wendy : wagnew@sustainabilityfrontiers.org

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