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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.


Thinking Pedagogy for Places of the Relational Now  

Valerie Triggs

The work of American artist, educator, and researcher Elizabeth Ellsworth is profoundly influential in many fields of study, including social policy, architecture, feminism, mass communication, media, education, and art activism. In education, Ellsworth’s insights and ideas about knowledge and pedagogy challenge the view of student education in terms of mental activity and processes of growth promoted by modern psychology. She problematizes knowledge and learning by connecting them to moving bodies, offering radical insights regarding how human embodiment affects activities of teaching and learning and how places of learning implicate bodies in pedagogy. Ellsworth claims knowledge to be always in the making and pedagogy as a force that is already at play in the world, driving experience and sustaining the human prospect. Ellsworth challenges art education by actively questioning knowledge and reality as already made, arguing instead that both are multiple, and can and must be challenged so that society can respond and engage with discursive and material spaces of classroom and daily life practices that changing times, spaces, and bodies engender. Drawing from a wide variety of disciplines, including contemporary art and media design, Ellsworth urges education to orient to the pragmatics of aesthetic experience and the rich indeterminacy of time in moving bodies and demonstrates the potentialities in responding to the anomalies of teaching even while allowing them to be undecidable. In calling for pedagogic efforts that liberate matter from constraint, her work has inspired many varieties of new materialisms currently coming to the fore in curriculum studies. Ellsworth emphasizes the practice of thinking that pedagogy offers, which engages the aesthetic to neutralize binary thinking. She argues that even in attempts to act against oppressions, easy polemics oppose victims to perpetrators; unity is based on sameness; and an “us-ness” versus “them-ness.” Methods appear unproblematic in their use of rationalistic tools, and there are incapacities or refusals to acknowledge one’s own implication in the information and practice that assume exemption from becoming oppressive to others. Instead, Ellsworth advocates thinking in which dynamic and relational unities move through each other, always emerging as something un-predetermined. Her work carries a clearly articulated sociopolitical agenda for design of pedagogic circumstances whose anomalous and “impossible” natures are the actual places in which difference has the flexibility to differ, and students of difference can thrive.


Curriculum and Place  

William M. Reynolds

Place matters. The conceptualizations and analyses of place defined in geographical and metaphorical terms play a significant role in understanding curriculum and are an exciting, important and ever-increasing discourse in the field of curriculum studies. As the discourses have developed, an increasing amount of scholarship has emerged that centers on place and its significance autobiographically, psychoanalytically, culturally, racially, and politically, not only in the field of curriculum but in education and society in general. There is also attention paid to the notion that understanding our place (situatedness) is as important as our positionality. There is a historical discussion on the manner in which studies of curriculum and place have focused on the southern United States; however, as the area has developed, the focus has expanded to place considered not only in terms of the southern United States, but other areas of the country and internationally. The discussion begins with notions of why place matters in curriculum studies and in our general understandings of place as well. A second major emphasis elaborates on the work done in curriculum and place developmentally and historically, highlighting major studies that exist in the area. A discussion of the future of what is called place studies in curriculum is the final area including highlights of the newest scholarship alongside a discussion of the movement toward the parameters of place globally. Beyond the parameters of this article, but significant in the study of place, are the treatments of place in literature, film, and television series; a small discussion of these areas is included.


The Mythopoetics of Curriculum  

Mary Aswell Doll

Mythopoetics is a way of reading ideas for their connection to the basic stories known as myths, as well as to poets, writers, and educators concerned with self and culture. The mythopoetic method seeks understanding from the metaphors which myths and literature present. Ideas contain images, which offer insight into the language of the depth dimension. Psychology, whose root word is “psyche” (not “brain”), studies the expressions of the unconscious self in all its forms and deviations; and curriculum urges study of the various educational disciplines for understanding how they shape individual histories and identities. Psychology, education, and curriculum share Latin roots meaning “soul,” “leading out,” and “running within,” respectively. The confluence of these areas suggest that the real subject of education is the student’s subjectivity. The project of being human is understanding the self’s connection with the energy exchanges brought about through basic opposites, such as human–other, human–society, and human–environment relations. Two key ideas about which curriculum scholars theorize are the impact of place (and displacement) on individuals, first, and how alterity is envisioned both by self and from others (second). Writers, poets, and dramatists share curriculum’s concern with subjectivity formation by offering insight into the impact of place and alterity on the development (or repression) of consciousness. By discussing these two concepts through the lens of mythopoetics, there are many avenues for viewing the self, how it can be “led out,” what histories and social codes have influenced identity formation, and ways to access the hidden self by regressing into memory depths. The power of poetics is that it releases people from the stranglehold of their normalcy, bigotry, and hardheadedness. Curriculum scholars often write on the American South and its vexed race relations, for instance, as a necessary place to examine motive and repressions, whereas depth psychologists consider the South as the direction of the depth dimension, where one’s own Other, the alterity that needs access, resides. A mythopoetics of curriculum, then, uses literature as a means of analysis and synthesis in the formation of the self.


Preparing Pre-Service Teachers for Rural Schools  

Amy Price Azano, Jayne Downey, and Devon Brenner

Preparing pre-service teachers for rural schools has been a challenge in the field of education for more than a century, and issues specific to the rural teacher workforce remain a persistent and salient challenge in the United States and globally. This task is complex and multifaceted, conflated with a wide range of contextual variations in salaries, community amenities, geographic or professional distances, technology access, health disparities, and poverty rates. Additionally, institutions of higher education have wavered in their interest in and commitment to rural teacher education, though there is a growing awareness of the need to attend to the experiences of students in rural communities and the educators who teach them. The literature and research on rural teacher preparation has typically been organized around the three challenges of preparation (post-secondary education), recruitment (youth aspirations to teach, would-be career changers interested in teaching, and division-level efforts to staff schools with effective teachers), and retention (providing pre-service and new teachers with learning experiences and support that increase the likelihood of remaining in the profession in rural schools). Literature on rural teacher preparation and evidence related to “preparation, recruitment, and retention” can be repositioned to offer new insights focused on solutions. Three focus areas—Curriculum, Context, and Conveyance—serve to answer the question: What makes a teacher preparation program rural? Curriculum serves as a core component for preparing rural teachers. A rural curriculum for a teacher education program includes introducing students to content and experiences, including field experiences, that have been designed to support their professional and personal success in rural schools and communities. Context is understanding the strengths and assets of the rural places, communities, and cultures in which pre-service teachers are preparing to live, learn, and teach. Context allows us to consider the unique environments in which rural teachers live and work. Conveyance is the means by which potential teachers have access to teacher preparation programs, that is, how programs are delivered and structured to provide access to potential teachers in rural communities (online, in person, alternative and traditional programs, etc.). A focus on Curriculum, Context, and Conveyance allows school leaders and education researchers to resist deficit ideologies and to consider how rural communities are asset-rich environments, ultimately increasing resources that prepare teachers for, and build from the strengths of, rural communities.