Monday, October 28, 2013

Creating Our Own Sustainability Education Lens

“It's never enough just to tell people about some new insight. Rather, you have to get them to experience it in a way that evokes its power and possibility. Instead of pouring knowledge into people's heads, you need to help them grind a new set of eyeglasses so they can see the world in a new way.”
--John Seeley Brown

In this age of executive summaries, bullet points and sound bites, we are overflowing with data and information. In the field of sustainability education, we quickly become numb to the facts and figures, many of which are quite depressing. So, how do we develop, as John Seeley Brown suggests, "a new set of eyeglasses... to see the world in a new way?" And in a way that is inspiring and uplifting to motivate us to find viable solutions?

Perhaps the first step lies in using the wisdom expressed by our environmental leaders and adapting it to our own lives. The Aldo Leopold Foundation’s Leopold Education Project (LEP) is a good example. Utilizing Leopold's essays from his book, A Sand County Almanac, teachers from throughout the US are helping students develop and clarify their own environmental values. The Leopold Education Project's high school curriculum encourages students to explore their environmental ethics while studying Leopold's essays in a natural setting. Students come away with a greater understanding of the meaning of stewardship and are able to adapt these concepts to their own daily life experience.

Using this type of approach students and teachers benefits by creating a space for students to take ownership of the material and adapt it into their lives. Perhaps this approach will spread as educators create a more flexible approach to the knowledge base in the complex issues related to sustainability. We keep the information aspect of the course material manageable and then build in flexibility and space for students to make it their own.