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Imaginative Ecological Education: Evolution of a Theory and Practice  

Gillian Judson

Imaginative Ecological Education (IEE) is an emerging cross-curricular and cross-grade pedagogical approach that seeks to address the neglect of emotional and imaginative engagement in Place-based learning. Its dual aims are to engage learners emotionally with the natural world and, ultimately, to transform how learners understand their relationship within the natural world. Understanding ecologically or the development of ecological understanding is the main goal; this represents a deep understanding of human connectedness within the living world. To achieve this goal, Imaginative Ecological Education acknowledges the central role of emotion in all learning and considers the value of emotional engagement not just for learning, but for supporting connections to nature that inspire environmental values and action. This pedagogical approach brings imagination from the sidelines to the centre of theory and practice, acknowledging that imagination is essential for engaging in learning and transforming human-nature relationships. Envisioning the possible, the not-yet, requires imagination. The central focus on emotional and imaginative engagement of learners within Place-focused teaching is what sets Imaginative Ecological Education apart from other approaches to outdoor learning. Imaginative Ecological Education theory and practice is evolving based on practitioner feedback and research.A Walking Curriculum: Evoking Wonder and Developing Sense of Place (K-12) is the most practical and accessible book on Imaginative Ecological Education. It contains a series of walking-focused activities that engage the principles of Imaginative Ecological Education in order to support emotional connections in learning. To date this approach has been most employed in the elementary school context. Research suggests that Imaginative Ecological Education practices support learners in forming emotional connections with and in the natural world.

Article

Community-Based Experiential Learning in Teacher Education  

Gary Harfitt

Institutes of higher education around the world have increasingly adopted community-based experiential learning (EL) programs as pedagogy to equip their students with skills and values that make them more open to an increasingly unpredictable and ill-defined 21st-century world. Values of social justice, empathy, care, collaboration, creativity, and resilience have all been seen as potential benefits of community engagement through EL. In the field of teacher education, the goals of preparing teachers for the 21st century have undergone similar changes with the local community being positioned more and more as a knowledge space that is rich in learning opportunities for both preservice and in-service teachers. It is no longer enough for teacher educators to only focus on the teaching of classroom strategies and methods; beginning teachers’ must now move toward a critical interrogation of their role as a community-based teacher. Boundary-crossing projects established by teacher education institutes and that are embedded in local communities can complement more traditional pedagogies such as classroom-based lectures and teaching practicum. Such an approach to teacher education can allow for new teachers to draw on powerful community knowledge in order to become more inclusive and socially connected educators. In sum, community-based EL in teacher preparation programs can create a hybrid, nonhierarchical platform for academics, practitioners, and community partners who bring together different expertise that are all seen as being beneficial to teacher development in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. While research has shown that community-based EL projects can bring tangible benefits to students, universities, and community members, a number of contentious issues continue to surround the topic and need to be addressed. One concerns the very definition of community-based EL itself. There is still a need to better characterize what community-based EL is and what it involves, because too often it is seen in overly simplistic terms, such as voluntary work, or categorized loosely as another example of service-learning endeavors, including field studies and internship programs. There has also been a paucity of research on the degree to which community-based EL projects in teacher training actually help to promote subject matter teaching skills. Other ongoing issues about the case for community-based learning in teacher education today include the question of who the teacher educators are in today’s rapidly changing world and to what extent noneducation-related community partners should be positioned as co-creators of knowledge alongside teacher educators in the development of new teachers’ personal and professional development.

Article

Critical Perspectives on Positive Youth Development and Environmental Education  

Marianne E. Krasny, Tania M. Schusler, Jesse Delia, Anne Katherine Armstrong, and Lilly Briggs

Positive youth development (PYD) assumes that, when given appropriate support, all youth have the capacity to develop the assets that enable them to succeed in life. Such assets include competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and contribution to community, otherwise known as the six Cs of PYD. Environmental education (EE) programs that focus on youth action and empowerment offer the support needed for youth to develop these assets. Youth after-school, summer, and residential programs, often serving low-income and minoritized youth, increasingly are using environmental action and learning as a means to achieve PYD outcomes. Yet both PYD and EE have been criticized for not addressing the root causes of poverty and environmental degradation. In response, critical traditions in PYD and EE have emerged, in which youth reflect and act on structural barriers to human and environmental well-being in their communities. As youth and their mentors seek to address systemic inequities impacting themselves and their environment, they develop additional “Critical Positive Youth Development/Environmental Education” assets including critical reflection, efficacy, the ability to take collective action, and community-level empowerment.

Article

Challenging the Nature—Culture Binary Through Urban Environmental Education  

Marijke Hecht

Environmental conditions facing our local and global communities in the early 21st-century demand an urgent shift in education toward fostering healthy multispecies communities through stronger relationships between human and more-than-human beings. Environmental education, which has long pushed for interdisciplinary pedagogies that connect people and place, is well positioned to serve this aim. However, for the field to continue to develop and meet the challenges of the 21st century, it needs to address its roots as an outgrowth of science education where entrenched Eurocentric perspectives, such as human exceptionalism and the persistence of a nature–culture binary, are pervasive. These perspectives contribute significantly to the ongoing extraction of natural resources and degradation of habitats, which are tied to pressing environmental issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss. For environmental education to effectively impact learning in ways that lead toward a lasting protection of people and the planet, the field must be more critical of its roots and practices. Urban environmental education, which takes place where the majority of people live globally and in landscapes where humans and more-than-human beings are in close proximity, has the potential to challenge existing practices and continue to grow the field. Rethinking the nature–culture binary and the insistence on human exceptionalism are necessary for transformational improvements to the local landscape and planetary health. Two existing approaches that can support field-level change are critical place-based and Indigenous L/land-based pedagogies, which are drawn from different traditions but both support the transformation of relations between human and more-than-human beings. However, this requires an interrogation of if and/or how non-Indigenous scholars might take up Indigenous philosophies and pedagogies respectfully and ethically.