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Sophia Weinstein's blog

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Natural Conduct

“In their occluded waters light loses its directionality within a few inches of the surface. Beneath this lies a flowing stream of suspended matter in which visibility does not extend beyond an arm’s length. With no lighted portal to point the way, top and bottom and up and down become very quickly confused” (Ghosh 46).

 Having spent so much time this semester in and outside of our 360 contemplating connectedness, barriers, intersectionality, and porosity, I am finding myself in a sort of ‘flowing stream of suspended matter’ – very close to accepting the possibility that I will never truly find the right direction with which to ask the right questions and find the right answers to understand the world. There is a false sense of closure associated with our 360 coming to an end, yet I know that my life as a student and as an ecologically minded person is much more in the beginning stages. I am in a stream of questions and answers (that are never truly answers) that circle me back to discover that indeed, the same problems still exists in our world. Everything, for me, comes back to the relationship between being an individual and belonging as part of a group or society. I want to break out of this whirlpool. I have been having trouble understanding why I am so transfixed on this “me/us/them” theme, seeing as we are an eco-literacy 360 and this topic does not feel pointedly ecological. Exploring the connections we have with one another is important, but does not fully consider our connections to earth and the environment.

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Camp Galil Food Justice Curriculum

Throughout my time in our Eco-Literacy 360, I have grown to have a better understanding of what it means to be thinking and acting ecologically, honoring the ‘environment’ as an intrinsic aspect of our lives as individuals, and of the communities that we are part of. Teaching and learning with the intentions of ecological literacy can have mind-opening effects on how we perceive and interact with the world, its people, and the environment. With this in mind, I want to take my curriculum to where eco-literacy has been most present in my life and the lives of many of my friends and family members. My curriculum is designed in a very location-oriented fashion, as a learning experience for the oldest age group at Camp Galil. Galil is one of many camps that make up the Labor Zionist Youth Movement “Habonim Dror”, and is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The ideology of Habonim Dror is based on five pillars: Progressive Labor Zionism, Judaism, Socialism, Social Justice, and Hagshama (actualization of values).  These ideals are rooted in the Hebrew phrase “Tikkun olam”, or “repairing the world”, and are the basis of the unique experience that is Galil. This ideology plays a strong part in generating its eco-centric, environmentally conscious community, but I also see eco-centricity rooted in the camp’s physical location, the style of interaction between peers and between counselors and campers, as well as in the playful, fun-spirited, and non-traditionally educational learning that takes place.

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"Bear with me as I seem to go in circles…."

When I read sara.gladwin's first sentence to her post "bear with me as I seem to go in circles" it brought me to the relationship between Piya and Fokir, and the full-circledness of their time together. They meet when he saves her from the water, a mysterious sort of water that difracts light every which way. She loses her sense of which way is up, but is Fokir guides her to the surface. In the end they are both trapped in a powerful, uncontrollable water, in which saving Piya from it is the last thing Fokir does. The story is beautiful, but I can't help but feel a bit cheated. I know that Piya and Fokir's language barriers did not cut off their connections with each other, but the language barrier kept me from ever seeing and understanding Fokir. We see how much Piya has gotten from her relationship with Fokir: he saves her life, guides her to her dolphins, saves her again, and again. We never see what Fokir has 'gotten' from their relationship. All it seems is that Piya created trouble in his relationship with his wife and family, promted him to put himself in dangerous situations, and led him to give his own life in order to save her. I try to reach for understanding of Fokir's side of the story, but I find myself going back in circles through the stories of other people. I will never know, but it is all I want to know! But then again, that is what life is. We reach out and make connections with people to try to understand the world, the minds, the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that exist beyond our own minds, but we will never know the story.

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The totality of the known or supposed

Everything that any living being does, thinks, and feels is unchangeably its own perspective. I exist only within my own reality, only able to read and interact with the world through my own senses. My perspective is the most constant factor of my existence – ever-changing and developing, but solely my own. I am always drawn back to thinking about our universe: “the totality of known or supposed objects and phenomena throughout space”. Not “the totality of all phenomena throughout space”, but the known and supposed. Humankind has ‘claimed’ the universe as its own. We have established ourselves as the focal point of existence. And just as humanity has claimed the universe, I like to believe that us people all exist within our own ‘personal universe’, for the totality of our own existence is comprised of what we know or suppose. This sounds like a very individual-centric approach to thinking about people, but it is because of this truth that our webs of porous connections and togetherness are so powerful. Everything we do is a choice, what we ourselves decide to do. And despite the fact that we exist in our ‘personal universes’, it seems to be a common link of humanity to constantly push ourselves to escape from our own singularity and choose to share, combine, connect, understand, and feel the perspectives of others. We have the choice to be selfish and self-centered.

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Banning Traditional Animal Slaughter

This is so in tune with everything we've been talking about this week, I'm not even sure what to think about it. Thoughts?

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The Power of Empathy

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Defining the boundaries of your own 'classroom'

Camp Galil (my sleepaway camp where I went 7 summers, and am returning to work this summer) is what I immediately think of when I think of outdoor spaces as sites for learning and education. Our camp is part of a Jewish Labor Zionist Youth Movement called Habonim Dror ("The Builders-Freedom") that has roots in over a dozen countries. At camp, I was taught many ideals of social justice and activism in a very laid-back outdoorsy environment. Every day, we would have 'peulot' (activities) that our counselors planned for us, where we would sit together outside in the grass in a circle having a group discussion. It was a very different kind of classroom. There are so many things to be said about convening with nature together in this way, but I think the 'boundaries' that it gave (or did not give) were very powerful.

The traditional classroom - indoors, white walls, square, windows that you should not be staring out from - give a very particular message as to how to learn, and what to be learning about. To be thinking outside the white square box is to not be present in your learning, and to be disrespectful of your education. It artificially cuts off your mind and body from the outside world.

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There was a point on our hike that struck me, where we crossed a bridge and climbed up a hill and looked out at tbe view of where we had just stood on the bridge. So much of life feels like that; so often you get used to one perspective, only to then discover the fleetingness of any one 'phase' in life, and promply move on, only able look back at where you were, but never again experience its perspective. Makes me think of Joni Mitchell...

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

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Harriton House

I had an amazing time on our trip to Harriton House on Friday. It started out really frustrating, not having the vans to go to Wissahickon, and knowing that we were going to miss out on a beautiful weather day. As it turned out though, I truly believe that our Plan B was exactly what needed to happen. I was recalling so much of what happened a few weeks ago when our trip to Audubon transformed into a bittersweet series of events. We had fought against the weather with a determination that as humans, we have the ability to 'outsmart' Nature and go on as best as possible, limiting our losses caused by the snow. We all agreed afterward that perhaps we should have 'read the weather' and instead should have given in to our limitations set by the environment. I think whomever made the scheduling conflict with the vans (or whatever ended up being the problem) was reading the weather for us on Friday. The sun and warmth, the crispness in the air, was begging us not to spend so much as a second in a van driving through traffic, navigating our way through Philly. We were meant not to vacate our current location, traveling to find a truly 'natural environment'. (Don't get me wrong, I look forward so much to going to Wissahickon this Friday!) We were, however, meant to read the weather and maximize our time spend outside, walking together, greeting animals, welcoming spring, soaking in the beautiful day. It was amazing to stand in a field of freshly opening crocuses and realize that the ground is literally buzzing with life.

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"I Spy an Ecosystem!" and Words as Barriers

“I Spy an Ecosystem!” and Words as Barriers

Today, it seems that our current method for teaching about the environment fosters a perceived intrinsic disconnect, or distance, that humans have from our environment. The words that are used, and the ways in which we use them, make for an unstable foundation for the ongoing efforts to better understand our place in the ‘environment’. As teachers, learners, and as human thinkers, we are constantly trying to bridge connections and understanding between one another and to the world around us. Knowing is about making connections. How can we make connections to Nature and the ‘environment’ when these terms segregate all things ‘human’ from what is ‘natural’? Where do we fit into this environment? Perhaps the terminology we use to talk about ecological concerns is rooted in a way of thinking that we are trying to separate ourselves from. As Bowers says, “Many of those analogs were chosen by men who were unaware of environmental limits, and who took for granted many of the cultural assumptions of their era. Recognizing that words have a history has important implications that are seldom considered” (Bowers 48). How can we teach a love, a respect, and a sense of connection to ourselves while using the same vocabulary that was created by those who were unaware and apathetic to these same concerns? We are having a different conversation now, so maybe we need to be deliberate in our language and conscious of our meaning. 

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