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Rethinking Environmental Education

Lisa Marie's picture

The Ecoliterate readings for this week were incredibly interesting and enlightening, especially when thinking in terms of outdoor spaces are used in this 360 and how they may be used in other schools. Learning about the Gwich'in people and their evolving role and way of life that is at odds with oil drilling practices in Alaska was so fascinating. James's statement was especially striking: "to protect the earth is our way of life. It makes us who we are." The authors then posed the questions: How might you integrate some of these attitudes and behaviors into your own life? How can you nurture them into your own students? We then read about the experiences of students in New Orleans who came together to rethink the schools and to provide recommendations for improving schools. While there was no outdoor classroom space persay, when the oil spill occurred, the students did gain greater awareness of the interconnectedness of oil production and use and reliance, as well as how it affected them. One final part of the reading I enjoyed was the Professor who dealt with water conflicts. "What is useful? What can we apply to the conflict-resolution world? What can we learn from mystical experiene that we can bring into a room of angry people?"

A theme I found accross the readings was the passion and investment each individual or group had in the particular  social and environmental issue they confronted. This was cultivated and carried out in different ways, but still had some kind of meaningful impact. The challenge we've had to address in this Ed course is what happens when there isn't access to pristine natural spaces. The Rethinking New Orleans example showed how the students learned more about and adovacated for the spaces they navigated every day. Whether it was asking for real, sustainable food, or learning more about how to prevent future oil spills, the students had an active role in addressing an ecological issue. So when there may not be outdoor spaces readily accessible, teachers could nurture the students' interest in protecting the environment by helping them get to know areas that are important and matter to them in some way. Is there anyhing mystical/spiritual that teachers can bring in to this type of lesson? What could teachers and students learn from the Gwich'in people or groups that have mediated nature related conflicts?