This week I focused on doing more research to aid in my final project- scouring the internet and local libraries for anything having to do with the environmental education of youth.
I’m thinking I want to frame my project in two parts- 1. Create an educational trunk kit for the environmental education of the students at Wheeler Middle School (worksheets, resources, and help with their rain garden). Observe how effective this curriculum is. 2. Use things I learned from the effectiveness of the curriculum (and lots of research papers on education theory) to design optimal environmental education curriculum. The research I did today will most certainly help me with part 2.
There are three important terms that my research centered around- environmental literacy, ecological literacy, and ecoliteracy. Each of these terms are usable in different ways, meaning entirely different things- though the one I will mainly be focused on is ecoliteracy. This term that has been popping up often recently, the notion that a person/populous should share concern for the environment and recognition of the central role of education in enhancing human-environment relationships. It also calls for a fundamental reconstruction of the entire education system to achieve resolution to these environmental concerns.
There are six main elements to ecoliteracy- 1) ecological self- a sense of interconnectedness with the cycle of life based on care and compassion 2) sense of place and active citizenship- engagement with local culture, history, and organic community together with the ecosystem 3) systems thinking and relationship- a sense of rationality, connectedness, and context 4) the ecological paradigm- study of the whole relationships and networks, a focus on contextual knowledge 5) pedagogy of education for sustainability- an experimental, participatory, and multi-disciplinary approach, focusing on the learning process 6) reading the world of nature and culture- engaging with ecoliteracy as early as possible as the first type of literacy. (Source)
My challenge is to make use of these facets of ecoliteracy in a series of lessons applicable for elementary/middle school aged children. Everything I’ve looked at has identified number 5 as the crucial facet when dealing with younger kids- providing an experience hands-on and interesting enough to engage them with the material and further interest them independently in the material. (This relates back to an article I wrote about earlier on my blog.) The curriculum I’m designing has lots of engaging bits thus far- mostly hands-on experiments to allow the students sensory contact with curriculum they know only from worksheets. (Also obviously while number 6 is important, it is not so easily achieved. Having children experience ecoliteracy before actual literacy would be a drastic chance from the way our Western Culture presents education- though that doesn’t mean the students can’t still be well-engaged at the elementary/middle school level.) Hopefully if time and circumstance allow, after I’m done designing the sample lesson, I’ll be able to present it to a test-group of BASIS 5th graders to gauge success.
[This week is a big(er) week for the project, FRYA engineering is sending out a representative to Wheeler Middle School to help them with the hands-on part of their eco unit. They’ll be using the soil test kits I talked so much about, and learning firsthand from an environmental engineer. I’ll be engaging with this visit as much as I can while still being here in Tucson, hopefully gauging the success of the presentation that will assist in building my own curriculum]