Teachers: agents of change for nature

Capillary wave/Ripple effect

Respect for nature, where does it start? Teachers, scholars, and advocates of sustainable lifestyles from all levels of education are emphatic that respect for nature starts during childhood. They say knowledge, based in healthy respect for Nature and ecosystems, is key to cultural transitions to a cleaner, more just and sustainable future. Many believe outdoor education provides our youth with a deeper environmental ethic that can be a strong antidote to status-quo climate-changing behaviors. Wanna hear more? Please listen to the audio report.

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Read the transcript below.

Welcome to Good Dirt Radio, reporting on positive change… taking root.

Respect for nature… where does it start? Teachers, scholars, and advocates of sustainable lifestyles from all levels of education, are emphatic that respect for nature starts during childhood.  They say knowledge, based in healthy respect for Nature and ecosystems, is key to cultural transitions to a cleaner, more just and sustainable future.  Many believe outdoor education provides our youth with a deeper environmental ethic that can be a strong antidote to status-quo climate-changing behaviors.

Colleen O’Connell is an early childhood educator who designed and mentors a master’s degree program at Leslie University, in Cambridge, MA.  She trains teachers, from across the US, how to teach ecologically based learning to students of all ages and shares in a growing network of educators who see themselves as agents of change, in the classroom.  O’Connell says the status quo is broken, but she offers a solution.

O’Connell:  I am actually shocked at where we’re headed. I mean we’ve gone mad for money and we’re on a path that’s gonna take us over the cliff and we’ve got to turn it around.  What’s been really important for me through the years, as an educator, is to figure out how to re-insert ourselves into the web of life.  And my purpose in this program is to invite teachers to rethink their teaching practices and teach from a place of interconnectedness, to reinvigorate their curriculums with language and practices that have students reconnecting with life, what we do and who we are. And, I think that we could re-navigate ourselves in a new direction and not create children that are consumers but create children that are citizens of their home and of their communities and of the planet.   And, to get ourselves back in alignment with the living systems on Earth and how we can participate in them, not abuse them.

Bob Ellis teaches environmental studies and teacher education at Prescott College in Arizona.  His passion is connecting students to the outdoors in ways that help reveal the mysteries of the natural world. He believes that an artful relation-ship to place is important and grounds his students with knowledge of and respect for…their relationship to the biosphere.  He says students often gain invaluable reflections of themselves from their local environment.

Ellis:  There’s quite a bit of research that supports the idea that the development of a good brain is tightly tied to putting hands on things that are in nature, the bark of a tree, the stones in water, sand, dirt.  You know, I like to think of culture of a mighty river that flows across a landscape and that river has momentum in a particular direction. Beavers are not afraid attempt to dam a mighty river. Change happens incrementally and my excitement is that, slowly, stick by stick, we’re changing the culture of this mighty river to move in a direction towards greater sustainability.

Asha Stout, a graduate of Prescott College’s sustainability programs, returned for a recent graduation and says his peers are a vital community… invested in change.

Stout: Experience that’s shared by all graduates of Prescott College is a connection to nature. We all start with a wilderness orientation out in the woods and we start to recognize and appreciate the cycles in nature.  So, when I think about experiential education, especially environmental education and this transformational experience that we have, there’s this powerful ripple effect where we’re training teachers to teach education for environmental sustainability and the ripple effect continues as these kids go out into the world and lead their lives having been influenced by these values.  And to come now and see the community coming together again was just inspiring.

Ellis quotes Wendell Berry.

Ellis:  To treat life as less than a miracle is to give up on it. And its in that miracle that the awe, the wonder and those things that kids are naturally attracted to, leverage towards a better future.  

O’Connell:  Its how do we practice what we want our children to be practicing.  Be the change you want to be in the world, as Ghandi said, so we as teachers need to be that change.

Good Dirt Radio urges you to check with local educators to make sure that hands on nature teaching is a basic part of your schools’ curriculum.  For more info, please visit our website at gooddirtradio.org.

Schools are like democracies…they work best when parents get involved in important issues. Change can happen when enough people change their minds and take action.

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