Between the Hyphen of Social-Ecological, Thoughts for Education

A great read for Environmental Educators

I recently read this amazing journal article titled, Environmental Education and Curriculum Theory, calling for a breakdown in the Cartesian dualities of us and them, human and nature, and generally asking for an end to the “armchair” student and teacher syndrome common to much of educational practice today. This quote from the article says it well:

“There is also a deeper worldview issue encapsulated in the above curriculum’s characterization as an education for being for the environment. The hyphens reflect the aim of phenomenologists to reconstruct the mutually constituting human-environment duality while deconstructing the Cartesianinspired self-world separation and disconnection. Cartesian thinking, allegedly, invokes major epistemological and methodological assumptions about the nature of reality, knowledge, and truth upon which much of the positivist and postpositivist curriculum development and research in EE has proceeded and been legitimized (e.g., Robottom & Hart, 1993). Critiques of its dominance have contributed to the current vitality in EE research, in particular, the emergence of a range of interpretive approaches within qualitative approaches to inquiry. Moreover, many environmental philosophers and ecofeminists, in particular, are critical of the dualisms, binary logics, and values of hierarchical thinking that they associate with the positivist and patriarchal worldviews of Western science and philosophy and their associations with the ecological crisis (Merchant, 1980; Plumwood, 1993).”

Payne, P. (2006). Environmental Education and Curriculum Theory. The Journal of Environmental Education, 37, 25–35.

Embedded Learning is Vital

We know that engaged and embedded experiences are vital to learning, but they are treated more like gravy than the protein and potatoes they should be. There are hundreds of examples attesting to this, but the glut of poor understandings of how to integrate these experiences into learning without stretching already stretched budgets gets in the way of skillful implementation.

A take up from this article is that creating a dynamic of interplay between student and teacher, as part of a process of self-questioning, can provide this embedded, affective experience within the limitations of typical classroom environments. From experience as a teacher, I agree fully, though not to replace practical exposure to the “real world” through projects and field trips, but to capture a low-hanging-fruit that can dramatically augment learning.

I am becoming more convinced that students and teachers must be the cultivars of learning, with the students as the center-points of the process. The article offers 9 questions* for “Questioning for Being for the Environment” that can invoke these experiences, especially if the dualistic barrier is removed from what do you think? to what does this mean for us?


* If you would like the questions and cannot access them in the article, feel free to email me, as good ‘ol copyright laws do not permit me to repost.