EE interdisciplinary planning and teaching

If we are to believe that all education is environmental education, than interdisciplinary teaching is crucial. The limit to treating every subject like it’s own individual knowledge system, is that students and anyone inquiring, would lack the skills of connecting how everything works together. I have read and learned throughout my education career that when we are able to make connections between basically anything, there will be a better comprehensions of whatever is being inquired about. But back to the importance of environmental education.. I think it should surface in all subjects so students exploring any concept know that whatever we do, wherever we go, and whatever we inquire about, should involve the bigger picture: where we live and how we live. As I developed the unit plan with my group members, I found it surprisingly easy to incorporate environmental education in a variety of subjects. Going even further, it is actually quite doable to connect each lesson into one another taking the concept and knowledge and engaging, exploring, elaborating and evaluating through different tasks and most importantly, different perspectives.

I was walking up the stairs in the education building one day, and I was randomly thinking about my identity. What do I identify with? I thought about how I would say I am an emerging teacher (so in the future I would identify as a teacher). I then thought, “well, I would also say I’m an environmental educator” because my philosophy around teaching is guided by the importance of making connections, and central to that theme is the importance of the environment and what is means to not only me, but other people such as Indigenous people. Teaching about respect, appreciation, what the environment means to me, you, First Nations, what is missing, and how we can deconstruct certain paradigms around the subject is something I have now adopted in my way of thinking about learning and teaching. I concluded that being a teacher and being an environmental educator are not two binary concepts, but rather they are one within each other guiding my outlook and philosophy of teaching.

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Reflection on Action Learning Project

I found that planning and executing my Action Learning Project was very much inquiry based. The idea of exploring and uncovering an unknown concept with regards to the environment has showed me ways that I can learn about something by using my own intuition and direction of choice. This freedom did, however, make me feel like I needed to be more consciously aware of my ways of thinking about my particular topic: the importance and ecological impact of local food. I am aware that dominate discourses very much shape how, what, and why I think they way I do. Going about this, I paid particular attention to making sure I was doing the right thing (with regards to assessment) throughout the project. I was forgetting that this was a process of my eco-identity and that this actually had a personal effect on me. Keeping track of food miles and learning about locally produced products stemmed from the idea that we are polluting the environment which could be decreased with this type of awareness. An aspect that was in the back of mind because I wanted to deconstruct dominate discourses was that supporting local is more than trying to be “environmentally friendly.” I find that dominate discourse around food transportation has a lot to do with being conscious of an ecological footprint. Although this is important to understand, what we may fail to realize is that people used to live and support their community before European contact. As an environmental educator, I can show the “before” to reasons as to why this issue is important.

My Eco-identity had room to grow in this process. I uncovered thoughts, feelings, and information about myself because learning about an environmental consideration I had interest in. As I go about my micro-unit plan, I want to ensure that I allow my potential audience to engage in such an inquiry-based cycle. In a sense, this may surface patterns of dominate discourses which can give me an opportunity to challenge these ways of thinking and present students with alternate perspectives.

My Eco-Identity

My eco-identity has been shaped by my social context. I have been fortunate enough to have opportunities available to me that has allowed me to explore and ask questions about many different kinds of environments. I realize now, after much discussion and reading in class, that the beauty of nature through my eyes was relevant, but missing a sense of place. Growing up my eco-identity was shaped by many experiences involving, camping trips across Saskatchewan and Alberta, road trips across British Colombia, snowboarding and hiking in the mountains, canoe and kayak adventures, exploring acreages and farms of friends, going to tropical destinations, and so on. I feel like I have developed this love and appreciation for the unique, intricate, and beauty of various places around Canada, and because of these opportunities, I have grown to love and value natural systems. For as long as I can remember, immersing myself in the outdoors and connecting with other living systems has brought peace and tranquility to me.

However, as I stated earlier, I realize this identity that has been shaped is missing something. I want to emphasis that I am not arguing against exploration and observing, and appreciating various environments, rather I am saying that how I have gone about this as I grew up has been looked at through a euro-centric perspective. I was never conditioned to think that this land I am engaging in has a history of struggle and hardship. I am referring to the colonial past that this land has experienced and its relationship with people which has influenced the land we inhabit today. I find myself thinking about the idea of cultural commons discuss by Hardin in that I have taken for granted my ability to mobilize. I look at my creative journal drawing of this tree and could tell stories about every single one of those places. Those stories will consist of beauty, the peace and tranquil feelings I spoke of, and interacting with nature. They will not mention the treaty land they are on and/or why I have the option to be there in the first place. But why would they? In order to embody other perspectives with regards to exploring environments, what procedures would I need to take? Is there a different way to interact with the land, or is it simply being aware and bringing that appreciation to a different level? What can I do, as an individual, to deconstruct my euro-centric views? I assume this is just part of the journey of shaping my eco-identity . 

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“In the Middle of Things” Meta-reflection

My initial understanding of the environment and environmental education as seen overall in my creative journals and blog posts, have focused on the appreciation of the physical well-being of nature. I associated this with the well-being of humans because of the interaction and relationship we have with the environment. However, although I still stand by this idea, the information I have gathered and learned throughout the past couple months has introduced me to alternate perspectives. The key here is the notion brought up by Capra (2007) that all education is environmental education. From this, I can see many dimensions which, in detail, would definitely exceed the length of this blog post. Eco-literacy, cultural commons (Bowers, 2009), and the euro-centric view of nature are the dimensions of environmental education that I may have touched on in all my previous reflections, but I did not necessarily connect.

The reoccurring idea within my blog posts had an emphasis on nature. As I read my words about the importance of nature and the beauty of it and how it needs to be appreciated see seen here, I begin to realize that I was missing a very important piece of the puzzle. I was wrapped up in the idea that in order to be mindful of our environment, we need to learn how to live sustainable lives. But there is more to environmental education than that. Looking at the word nature, I was looking at in the way I was conditioned to think which neglects colonial past and that relationship to the words “nature” and “wilderness.” I never thought, until now, that these words could be seen as “cultural and hegemonic written through relations of power” (Newbery, 2012, p.34). In my first blog post, and then throughout, I continuously referred to the beauty aspect of nature. I guess I never really thought about it the extent of colonialism and how nature has played a role in cultural identity. In post number five I did mention this idea, but if I could rewrite it, I would go even further. Further to the extent that what we teach about nature and wilderness has been constructed in an euro-centric way providing education with only one perspective of space, land, and wilderness.

My approach to environmental education has been centred around what is being lost. I mentioned the culture of technology in youth, and in my love letter, commented on the fact that many “don’t care” about the environment as much as they should. My definitions of what it means to care have not changed, but encompass more meaning. This meaning will be constantly growing, but as of now, what I wish to add to “caring about the environment” is associated with the cultural commons Bowers (2009) talks about. The paradigms within a given community restrict and reinforce certain dominate discourses. As a result, alternate perspectives are left out, and Orr (2004) argues that ignorance is a part of human condition. This ignorance can take the form of white privilege and, in the case, unintentionally neglect the importance of colonial history and it’s influence on this concept of nature. Because of this ignorance, wilderness and nature have been viewed as a communal space that we share, respect, and some may take for granted when in reality there are historic stories that need to be shared. My thought process about the beauty of nature has evolved in to the beauty of space.  How I can relate this to environmental education is that in order to fully understand and teach others to, as I stated, “appreciate” the environment, the euro-centric perspective that reinforces power needs to be challenged.

In my action learning project, I see myself taking this perspective more animately. Supporting local food and products is one of many ways I can do my part in displaying the importance of community. Through my new environmental lens, I am now specifically interested is how important local businesses are to the environment and societal paradigms. Of course, reducing my carbon footprint is a dominate goal to this plan, however, challenging the common knowledge of food production because of capitalism is an element of my improved concept of appreciation to the environment. To conclude, I find myself critiquing concepts and meanings as I read and write about what it means to be eco0literate. As a result, thinking critically has allowed me to make connections about why environmental education is important. Paradigms in our society may have power, but being able to recognize this gives me an advantage to understand that we are surrounded by people, materials, and other living things that interact and have relationships which have histories that tell us why we are here today and inspirations for where we can go in the future. 

References

Bowers, C. (2009). Educating for a Revitalization of the Cultural Commons. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 14(1), 196-200.

Capra, F. (2007). Sustainable Living, Ecological Literacy, and the Breath of Life. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 12(1), 9-18.

Curthoys, L., Cuthbertson, B., & Clark, J. (2012). Community story circles: An opportunity to rethink the epistemological approach to heritage interpretive planning. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education (CJEE), 17, 173-187.

Orr, D. W. (2004). Earth in mind: On education, environment, and the human prospect. Island Press.

Where Are We?

 

Awareness 

Initially, the words wilderness, nature, and inspire evoke feelings of happiness and maybe even content . However, according to Newbery, breaking down these concepts can bring about different perspectives with regards to education. Canadian culture is taught in a way that, Newbery argues, is missing a vital piece of the puzzle. She says, “Presenting students with representations of how Aboriginal peoples have been strong, creative, and resilient throughout Canadian history. . . can sometimes empty the more important political questions of how marginalization and erasure in dominant narratives have come to be” (p.32). The way I see it, if we take words like wilderness for example, and use it in way that doesn’t allow us to look through a more critical perspective, we are dissociating ourselves with that part of the world. What is so important to understand is that in the past, the “wilderness” was not the unknown or simply a place to explore, it formed identity and a culture that related to the land in a way that is extremely hard to understand because of European imperialism.

Where are we?

So I’m going on a nature walk with my students and I anticipate that they will ask questions about the trees, the hills, the insects or animals they see and so on. They might comment on the open space and the fresh air and feelings of peace. Asking the question, “where are we?” will disrupt these initial thoughts about nature, and I anticipate I will get responses like, outside, in nature, in the wilderness, by the river, in the trees. This would be the perfect opportunity to practise some of Newbery’s notions about environmental education and (after doing my own research) discuss that we are not on common land, and that the hardships and endurances that Canadian people in the past faced is just the introduction to what this land actually means to each and everyone of us. The idea of addressing this and going on to show appreciation and awareness is to have a type of ceremony. Therefore, my way of saying thanks to the land and the history it carries would be in the form of a song. I would do some research on traditional Native American songs to sing as a class, or just myself to demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of importance of  nature.

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Eco-Literacy Braid

Caring for the environment seems to be a common theme among the concept of eco-literacy. But what does caring really mean? Based on the perspectives from mine and my classmate’s understanding, caring has to do with acts of appreciation, conservation, love, solutions, and educating others on the importance of the environment. It seems to me that various people in our lives have developed this ecological perspective that is ingrained in their everyday life. By doing things like recycling, conversing energy, and just being in touch with nature, these people in our lives show this value and it radiates inspiration!

Madison illustrated many ways in which taking care of the environment is an element of eco-literacy. Learning about environmental education from someone then applying it to your daily life is something I definitely consider important when understanding sustainability. When referring to learning about recycling she said,  “I didn’t know the importance of recycling at the time it opened my eyes to make me interested in why we did that and to this day I still recycle.” Similarly, Allison stated that her teacher, “taught me the importance of the environment and how human life depends on it.” This is much like my letter to my sister, as I commented on the large amounts of conscious efforts she does to care about the environment by recycling, composting, walking, etc. We need to work as a community, a system, in order to properly care and respect the environment and clearly we have done this by learning strategies to do so from others. Capra (2007) implies that in order to be a sustainable community we need to be educated by ecosystems and communities that have been able to sustain themselves. I believe that by imitating our eco-literate loved ones, Madison, Allison and I have all come to a common conclusion that is sufficient to Capra’s idea of eco-literacy with regards to sustainability.

However, the differences within our understanding is what makes the term eco-literacy so complex because it is comprised of so many dimensions. I think the main reason for this is the because of the system thinking we need to do according to Capra (2007). One reason for this is because we have devalued nature because of the materialistic world we live in. The perspective from Madison about travel and making sure her grandparents yard was clean as part of her understanding of eco-literacy was a perceptive I did not have. After thinking about it, I think that’s really interesting and applicable to the subject. It’s the appreciation aspect I had mentioned earlier which I think is fundamental if you want to start caring for the environment. Therefore, it dissociates with the materialistic world while stepping back and looking at the beauty in front of us. Also, Allison mentioned being exposed to the harm and pollution caused by humans. This was not something I specifically mentioned in my own letter, but again I think we need to address what has been done in order to know what we need to do.

References

Capra, F. (2007). Sustainable Living, Ecological Literacy, and the Breath of Life. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 12(1), 9-18.

Eco-literacy Love Letter

Dear Anja,

There is a simple beauty about you. Beyond appearance, charisma, and intelligence, you hold a value that has the ability to change the world. Among the chaos, materialistic world, and consumerism, you acknowledge the beauty and importance of nature. Not just the majestic element of the natural world, but the interconnecting networks between living things. It was you that inspired me to care about the environment as much I do. You recycle, compost, walk everywhere, and even did the vegetarian thing for a year. You educate me about the ecosystems in the ocean and how they are being destroyed, and that the temperature of water to actually kill germs would burn our hands, so washing with hot water only hurts the environment. I don’t know all the logistics  behind all your little facts, but I think it is so cool that you care so much about the environment to go out of your way to learn about it. This biophilia you possess allows you to explore the earth in a way that proves that the earth does not need us to survive, but we need it. I’ve learned from you that we can take, just like the animals take the resources to feed, the plants take the energy from the sun, as well as the vast majority of ecosystems that use but reuse resources, we just need to give back. With this knowledge at your fingertips, you mirror a practical way to sustain.

When did we stop caring? Why do you care so much? The passion you have for not only thinking about here and now, but the future shows how ecoliterate you are and your want to create a sustainable environment. This ability seems like second nature to you, and it is admirable and motivating. My wish is that one day, everyone will see and treat the world and everything that it entails through you passionate, open eyes.

Love, Amy

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