Hi Audrey! It’s Sara here, and I am going to tell you all about my ecoliteracy journey in ESCI 302. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we first started this class. Throughout the course I learned a lot about myself, the environment, and different ways of teaching.
First I would like to walk you through my background in environmental education and the environment in general. I do not have a lot of experience with nature and with being outdoors. I do remember going on a few outdoor field trips in elementary school but never anything super big like a canoe trip which we read about Newbery’s canoe pedagogy article. My family, though, has never been camping or really spent any time outside. Mostly because my mom hates bugs as does my brothers and myself. I really enjoy spending time outside, I always have – aside from the bugs. My parents used to go skiing and used to spend much more time in nature than they do now. I’m not sure why they stopped spending time outside, but because of this, think they have lost their connection to nature or to Friluftsliv which we learned about in the video by Charlotte Workman. Friluftsliv is a Nordic philosophy about outdoor life and embodies the idea of returning to nature, or home, as Workman calls it. My parent may have experienced this Nordic philosophy when they were younger but because of their lose of their connection with nature, my brothers and I never got to really develop a connection of our own.
As a documentation process for our learning in this course practiced the creative journal pedagogy. Taking a look at my creative journals I completed during this course, I am noticing that I unconsciously was unlearning and relearning throughout the course. My first creative journal was titled the “Beauty of Nature;” it’s prompt required us to explain what the environment means to us and I chose to focus on it’s beauty because it is beautiful. Looking back on this journal now, I realize that the environment is so much more than just beautiful. It provides us with life and materials that many people take advantage of. In Robin Wall Kimmer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, she states on page 221 in her story “The Sound of Silverbells,” “How will people ever care for the fate of moss spiders if we don’t teach students to recognize and respond to the world as a gift?” And that, I think, is one of our biggest problems; people don’t look at the world as a gift. We discussed in class how anthropocentrism is a human-centred philosophy of environmental education and that many, if not all, of the world’s problem are caused by humans. As we shifted into looking at hope and despair philosophies, I began to noticed a theme of a lot of emotions in my creative works. In my second creative journal I addressed the garbage that seems to be everywhere now a days. I notice myself getting very angry when I see garbage littered around my neighborhood or along the side of the road on my drive to school. My ecoliteracy love poem was full of shame, and guilt, and hope and a whole bunch of emotions. As I think about the world’s problems like climate change, I feel so much guilt because it is almost impossible not to contribute to this issue. I incorporated this quote into my ecoliteracy love poem: “And I sit here and ponder on these thoughts/while you think i’m full of lies./I know, I know, I do it too, we all do./ Contributing to this cancer/ it’s almost impossible not to.”
As we shifted our focus on a save the planet kind of philosophy, the embodying ecoliteracy project has changed a lot of things in my life. I now try to use as little plastic as possible and recycle as much as I can and influence my loved ones to as well. But, I also learned that disrupting this issue takes more than just individual changes as I’m not even sure if my life changes are even making a difference. Nevertheless, this embodying pedagogy allowed me to discover my ecological passions and self, which I hope to pass onto my students one day.
One of the biggest things that stood out to me during this course is the Eurocentric view that dominates our country. This Eurocentric view administers many normative narratives which I failed to notice before. My third creative journal was centred around Terra Nullius or “empty land.” But as we learnt in The Blanket Exercise, that land was never really empty at all, it was stolen. This Eurocentric view implements normative narratives on many subjects in this Country. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmer focuses on Indigenous philosophies by sharing her life stories and experiences with us. I went to public school all of my life so I’ve learned about the Indigenous history of Canada, but never Indigenous philosophies, which we strongly focused on in class. One of the ways we focused on disrupting these normative narrative was reciprocity. Kimmer poses the question, in “An Offering:” “What else can you offer the Earth, which has everything?” (p. 38). Reciprocity was a new term to me. It’s terrible, but I never really thought about how I can give back to the Earth. Our fifth creative journal focused on what we can do to give back to the Earth. I focused on using more of the Earth’s natural resources, like the sun, but as I am rethinking and relearning, there is so much more I can do. For example, I’ve been thinking of getting a tattoo for a while now and the two that I really want are small tree and a small sun. I can give thanks to the Earth by forever having it’s symbols on my body.
The inquiry philosophies and pedagogy we focused on in class were really eye opening to me and is something I plan on incorporating in my future classroom. Inquiry allowed us to be engaged and participate within our learnings which is something that I think is very important in the classroom. Within this pedagogy we practiced vermicomposting, went on field trips, had class outside and practiced stillness outside, and gardened.
David Orr proposes that all education is environmental education and that is something I want to live by as an educator. Taking my students to work outside is so beneficial and is something that I can easily incorporate into my classroom, but will that be enough? I can incorporate gardening and vermicomposting and field trips but I’m worried that my students won’t be able to develop a deep ecoliterate connection with the Earth by doing just that. I hope as I continue my journey in environmental education, I can develop more ways to incorporate this important subject into every area of my curriculum.