As someone who had a passion for the outdoors and believed in striving to be a responsible earth citizen I was really excited to walk into the classroom on the first day of semester. I expected the class would largely revolve around ‘saving’ the planet and why it’s important. To my delight, the class was much more challenging and impactful. Throughout the semester I learned to challenge and reform my views about the environment and about myself.
The first challenge came early on in the semester when we began talking about Anthropocentric philosophies. I realized then that when I thought about the environment I was looking at it through a human-centered lens. Growing up I was taught that human beings are the most significant species so their value is higher than other animals on the earth. This thinking stuck with me throughout the years because even when I became concerned about the challenges in our environment it was due to the affect it would have on humans. I thought we need to conserve our resources and our land because without it humans will perish. Even when I thought about the conservation of other animals I was thinking about the impact their loss would have on humans, I was thinking that the extinction of so many spices is a great tragedy because of how it affects future generations of humans and their inability to see the beauty of these creatures. Learning about anthropocentrism and becoming aware of the anthropocentric beliefs I held was an important step in my development as an eco- literate person and it allowed me to shift towards a more ecocentric view, one in which humans are a part of rather than separate from nature.
I also learned that the interconecction between things and ideas can also be applied to eductaion and how we teach environmetal education. I orginally had the missconception that envirmnetal education was seprate from other eductaion; that we needed a seprate class to teach about the enviromental or that it could only be taught as a science lesson. But now when I think of enviromental eductaion, David Orr’s quote “All education is environmental education by what is included or excluded” comes to mind. After completing this course I have better insight into how I can incorprate diffrent aspects of envionrmtal education into our classrooms. There are 1000 different ways that we can get our students talking about and excited about understanding thier environmnet. Wheather that’s through vermicomposting and garderning, inquiry projects, nature walks and field trips- there are just so many different ways. I also now understand why it is harmful to seperate envirmental eductaion from other education. By seperating envirmental lessons from lessons on history or biology we,through the hidden currciulm, indirectly teach our students that the environment has nothing to do with these concepts.
Being aware of the ways in which the hidden currciulum impacts our students has also been an important lesson for me in this course. I can think back to many postive examples of the hidden currciulum in this course such as Audrey
recommending that we carpool when we go on field trips, bringing our own plates and cutlery for the potluck and when given the chance spending class time outdoors. Learning outdoors and practicing stillness will a memorable experience from this course. David Orr says “Indoor classrooms create the illusions that learning only occurs inside four walls, isolated from what students call with apparent irony ‘the real world’”
By only teaching lessons inside we are indirectly teaching our students that learning only happens indoors. It implies that the lessons students learn from textbooks are more valuable than the lessons they learn through their experience of being outdoors. Through readings like, Richard Louv’s No Child left Inside, and my personal experience of learning outdoors through stillness and observation, I’ve come to understand how detrimental this way of thinking can be.
While most other university courses are taught through lectures, note taking and textbook reading I enjoyed the fact that throughout the course I got to learn through so many different ways. There is good mix of traditional academic journals and articles and academic work from an Indigenous perspective told through storytelling like, Coyote & Raven talk about the Landscapes and Braiding sweetgrass. When examining all the different types of learning and knowing we did this semester I realize we did not only learn from our readings but had a lot to learn from each other. From our discussions in class,sharing circles and comments on blog posts we were able to share our knowledge, ideas and experiences with one another. This helped me to intertwine or ‘braid’ my views with those around me and explore ideas that I would have otherwise missed. In my second blog post I wrote about feeling discouraged with current state of our environment Brooklyn’s comment helped me to appreciate my situation and the power I have as an educator. She wrote “we have an amazing opportunity in education to spark interest in our students to power the next generation into action.”
Lastly, looking back through my blog posts I am able to see the growth I have gone through. For example in my very first journal piece I write about picking up pinecones, twigs and leaves I collected in a park to use for my visual piece. Looking at this from an ecocentric and Indigenous lens I can see how this way of thinking is problematic and how it displays a colonial mindset. I assumed that these things were mine to take because I had found them and because I did not see other humans using them I assumed no one else would need them. I did not think about the other organisms that would were using these things. I did not think about what would have happen tothese things once I was finished using them. My embodying eco-literacy project helped disrupting this kind of mindset because I try to more conscious of the things I use and take time to consider where they are coming from and what happens to it when I no longer need it. Disrupting this mindset can be challenging when we live in a consumerist society that prompts the acquisition of materialistic things with little regard to how those things are made and disposed.
But the growth I have experienced as an eco-literate person and the connections I have made with the environment around me and my fellow educators gives me confidence in my ability to face these challenges and in my role as an environmental educator.
LINK TO VIDEO: https://youtu.be/yI9woQ3Muf0