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Classroom EcologiesD



A bird sanctuary,
guerilla cell,
resistance group.

An ecotone,
on the border,
high density,
high diversity.

A testing ground:
random discoveries,
edge effects.

A wildscape, ruin,
liminal space,
boxed in-but-not enclosable,
ripe for breaking through.

Neither this nor that but

In restraint,
bursting out,

Contained yet uncontainable.
The unexpected rules.


If the liberal arts behaved more like ecology, and less like our human
endeavors to control the environment, might small U.S. colleges function
as borderlands, ecotones where we could ride, on the one hand,
against the ruins of classical education, and on the other,
the industrial rigidity of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top? 

Querying the “Natural”:
Re-thinking Classroom Ecologies

In such a context, what new shapes might our teaching and learning take,
as liminal spaces and excursions, arising in the midst of the crucial, yet
impossible separations between country and city, school and not-school,
inside and out? Traversing the edges of promise, desire, nervousness  and
threat, surprising conjoinings that are neither this nor that,
contained yet uncontainable, inviting always the unexpected?

In Class/Out Classed:
On the Uses of a Liberal Education

In the middle ages, European monastic communities preserved learning
that the Catholic Church forbade; in the 18th century, U.S. slaves could
only learn to read in secret. We experience liberal arts colleges as occupying
a similar position today: endangered themselves by wide-spread valuing
of the technical-and-vertical
, attended by students who are read
either as privileged outsiders, or as scapegoats prey to predatory fiscal policies
and scoffing from “the real world.”

Women in Walled Communities: Silence, Voice, Vision

We tell a different story, one that identifies the liberal arts as a political-and-spiritual cell culture, a hive of resistance groups with the capacity to challenge the leading paradigms in American education. We do so by tracking the chaotic and unpredictable, both unconscious and environmental, as deeply educative, creative, stretching our zone of the possible. Where else is this kind of work/play is happening: how broadly can we construe "classrooms"?

Crafting Sustainable Teaching Practices

We explore a pedagogical orientation that is both ecological and sustainable, in the very largest sense of these terms: engaging teachers and students in re-thinking classroom practices, and our larger lives, as complex, enmeshed, volatile, ever-expanding eco-systems. Our project has a porous, interactive energy, inviting reader-participants into pedagogical spaces where they might attend to the shifting borderlands between what we’re more familiar with and what feels edgy, new--with the goal of transfiguring what spaces of teaching and learning are and can be-and-do. We weave through our own voices--stories, images and propositions--those of students and colleagues with whom we have taught, learned, co-presented and co-written. This is a genre-crossing project, a dialogue working across verbal and visual forms, telling some good stories, inviting others in response, demonstrating the complex playfulness of collaborative and transdisciplinary forms of teaching and learning, and incorporating concrete suggestions about how academic and other structures might work to open this up.

Transition and Location: On Leaving Home, In Search of a Place of Understanding

We explore classrooms as testing grounds, paradoxically boxed-in spaces that cannot keep their promise to enclose, categorize, or name, and thus can become productive of conditions ripe for breaking through to experiences of reality, to the piercing that is possible in the intensity and instability of border ecologies.

Eco-Literary: A 360° Cluster




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