The earliest memories I have of citizenship education come from grade 6 and onward, with the majority of what I learned relating to the principles and characteristics of the personally responsible citizen. We were taught how to be “good citizens” by learning socially acceptable behaviours and practices. We were taught to be kind, work hard, educate ourselves, obey the law, vote, pay taxes, help others in need, contribute to charity, etc. I vaguely remember examining concepts of citizens who were less and more involved than the average citizen, and what those principles and behaviours looked like. We were discouraged from being “bad” citizens and gently encouraged to be average or above average citizens. Looking back now, it seems as though the citizenship teaching we received was meant to be synonymous with our character. If we displayed characteristics that fell outside the realm of the average or above average citizen, we were bad citizens and therefore bad people.
After learning more about citizenship and the three types of citizens in class, I realized there was a lot my initial citizenship education left out or made impossible. Firstly, many principles and characteristics of the participatory citizen were left out of the curriculum, with this kind of citizen only minorly being touched on. In addition, the justice-oriented citizen was neglected all together. I find it troubling that this information was left out of my citizenship education, and feel it should be integrated into current curriculum if it isn’t already. I feel as though we are entering into political times where we need to be educated and active citizens in order to create the society we desire. If we do not teach these types of citizenship in schools, it becomes harder to enact them when our students grow older. Lastly, much of the citizenship education I received did not discuss immigrant citizenship or express citizenship from an immigrant point of view. Canada is a country with an ever-growing immigrant population, and I think it is important to honour this perspective. Citizenship (and Canadian citizenship in particular) can hold varied meanings from those who do not obtain it by birth. Honouring this perspective works to honour the perspectives of immigrant children in the classroom and educate Canadian-born students. By expanding the content of citizenship education, we can create more educated and unified citizens, ultimately benefitting our country.
Throughout my schooling years, I have had a few Outdoor Education experiences. With each successive experience, I began to slowly unravel and understand the deeper meanings attached to Outdoor Ed./Environmental Education. My first official Outdoor Ed. experience was a three-day trip to Camp Monahan in the late spring of my grade eight year. I remember sleeping in tents with my friends, going swimming, making crafts, and playing games. This experience was fairly straightforward, as it served the purpose of getting my peers and I outside and having fun. In this instance, there wasn’t a deeper meaning associated with the trip. The experience was fairly surface level in terms of Outdoor Ed., depicting the traditional western worldview of wilderness as rejuvenating, peaceful, and adventurous, as Newberry mentions in her article.
My next significant Outdoor Ed. experience was on a school trip to Banff national park the following spring. Although I was on a choir trip, my teacher saw the availability of spare time one day as a great opportunity to take a nature walk through the mountains as an Outdoor Ed. experience. As we walked, my teacher stressed the importance of being one with nature and giving thanks for our beautiful surroundings. This was one of the first times I truly felt connected to nature, giving me a deeper understanding of wilderness consisting of relationships, as Newberry describes in her article by exemplifying Kaaren Dannenmann.
It was not until starting this course and studying Outdoor Ed./Environmental Education that I really began to understand the deepest implications of the subject material. This course (as well as other University courses I have taken) has presented me with Newberry’s idea of troubling knowledge that disrupts the traditional view of wilderness and tells the deeper narratives of Outdoor Ed. When we went on a nature walk in this class a couple weeks ago, I found myself recognizing many of the points Newberry makes in her article. For instance, I acknowledged that the purpose of the walk was not just to tour and enjoy nature, but rather to feel connected and recognize the storied past of the land. I recognized that I was on treaty four territory, and was informed of the indigenous ways of living and knowing that were and still are practiced to some extent on the land. I was informed of the land’s history of colonialism, the relationships between Indigenous peoples and European settlers, and the narratives that have been constructed in attempt to avoid these realities. I recognized and understood the truth of the land that so often goes unacknowledged, and my visual for this post represents just that.
Upon initial observation, my visual appears to be a scenic picture. This is meant to symbolize the deceptiveness and influence of traditional western narratives about wilderness. When some features of the picture are flipped back however, words and phrases that describe the true and sometimes troubling narrative of the land are uncovered. This shows that with deeper thought and inquiry, the land can reveal a hidden history that is not initially visible or known to all.
For this journal entry, I have chosen to relate the meaning of embodiment in the context of climate change and environmental education to the effect human kind is having on the environment. My visual aids in the depiction of this concept, and is divided up into three sections as so: The first section represents our “mother earth”, as the earth makes human life possible, and nourishes us with all the natural resources we need to thrive. The second section represents the grown children of mother earth, AKA human kind. The picture depicts the burning of fossil fuels, which contributes to climate change. It shows that as the children of mother earth grow older, we do not necessarily grow wiser. We choose to harm the earth that gives us life in the name of convenience and greed. The last section depicts two gravestones, one for mother earth, and one for human kind. This is meant to foreshadow the outcome of the decisions regarding the environment we are making today. If we do not start caring for the earth as it has cared for us, both will cease to exist.
The messages of embodiment in the context of climate change and environmental education also link to the arguments presented in this excerpt from Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring. In the excerpt, Carson explains that the damage we are doing to the environment is causing us to slowly poison ourselves. She uses the example of our use of chemical pesticides and other dangerous chemicals that have the ability to reside in our soil and water. Many of these chemicals are taken up by plants and animals, poisoning them. Some of these plants and animals serve as our food source, further infecting us when we consume them. This concept of self- poison can also be applied to climate change, through the burning of fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels releases harmful substances in the form of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming and can become concentrated in our tissues. It is for reasons such as these that this sense of embodiment also connects to environmental education. The emissions, chemicals, and waste we are producing now are perhaps permanently changing the homeostasis earth has taken millennia to achieve. Destroying this balance will cause catastrophic consequences for both the earth, and ourselves. Environmental education is important in that part of its purpose is to educate on this topic, so that we may create change. If we want to continue living on this earth, we must learn to care for the environment.
While reading Learning from Place: a Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing, it became apparent that reinhabitation and decolonization were important concepts strongly embedded within the article’s contents. Reinhabitation was demonstrated through the efforts of the community and advisory panel to renew relationships with the land, water, and surrounding environment. Community members recognized the environment as a complex being from which all life stems, rather than a resource for use. Concentrated focus on respect for the environment, as well as emphasis on living in harmony with it were deeply present. Decolonization was demonstrated through revival and priority of Indigenous ways of knowing. Use of intergenerational relationships, Indigenous language, and Indigenous cosmology are a few examples of acts that work to decolonize.
When I consider my own teaching career and the roles reinhabitation and decolonization will play as part of pedagogy as place, I consider each concept to play slightly different roles. When I consider reinhabitation, I envision it to fulfill two roles. The first role concerns the area of environmental education, as the main purpose of this subject is to teach us how to live in harmony with the environment. This purpose is almost synonymous with the definition of reinhabitation, which means “to teach us how to live well in our total environments”. Secondly, I view reinhabitation as a good general concept for classroom manner. Students, teachers, and curriculum should relate and exist in harmony, in order for education to be an effective and peaceful experience for all those involved. When I consider decolonization, I see it as a concept to be incorporated into all subject areas. Teaching is a political act, and should aim to decolonize in all areas. Much of this includes recognizing the realities of Indigenous history and culture, and incorporating Indigenous worldviews and ways of knowing as equal to western worldviews and ways of knowing. Certainly reinhabitation and decolonization can help strengthen our practice as educators.
While hearing and reading my classmates’ ecoliteracy poems, I found many of their perspectives to be intriguing. It was encouraging to see perspectives similar to my own, and enlightening to see perspectives different from mine. In particular, I found Emma Anderson’s love letter to nicely compliment my own, while Mckaila Scharfenberg’s poem highlighted an important aspect of ecoliteracy I did not include in my original love letter.
Similar to part of my work, Emma’s love letter focused heavily on the interconnected relationships of the environment. We both recognize the delicacy of these relationships, and that it is important we handle them with care. We consider the effects our actions have on these relationships, predicting the potential for great damage to be done not only to ourselves, but to everyone involved. We also understand that in order for these relationships to be successful, there needs to be an equal amount of give and take. This quote from Emma’s letter sums up the similarities of our letters nicely: “We were blind to what could become when we disregard the role of relationships and how they work together”. While I am more blatant about the scientific process of these relationships, Emma addresses them metaphorically, comparing them to a romantic relationship. I admire the aspect of intimacy she incorporates into her letter by doing this, and appreciate how the same idea can be expressed in two distinctly different ways.
While Mckaila’s poem briefly addressed the necessity to understand the environment and environmental issues, she also stressed the importance of being connected with the environment, writing “you will appreciate nature by being quiet and still, feeling your senses explore and your heart start to fill”. I did not consider this aspect of ecoliteracy in my love letter, however I think it is an important expansion to my understanding of the term. As much as we need to understand the environment and it’s processes, we equally need to develop a meaningful connection with it. This “connection” can be viewed as a relationship of sorts, tying back to Emma’s theme of having an intimate relationship with the environment.
After weaving together all three definitions of ecoliteracy, I realized “The Sound of Silverbells” from Robin Wall Kimerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass was the perfect strand to complete my braid. Much like mine and Emma’s love letters, Kimerer focused on the importance of understanding the environment’s interconnected processes throughout the majority of the field trip with her students. At the end of the chapter however, Kimerer realizes the true significance of understanding the environment is being connected with it, much like the point Mckaila makes in her poem. Lastly, all four works agree on one vital message as written in my letter: “You see the beauty in the world around us, and understand the need to preserve that beauty”. Although everyone may interpret ecoliteracy in different ways, we can all agree that the environment holds valuable beauty that needs to be preserved for generations to come.
I write this letter to express my admiration and appreciation for your knowledge and all the work you have done in the fields of environmental education and conservation. You see the beauty in the world around us, and understand the need to preserve that beauty. You understand that the environment is not ours for the taking, but a home in which we live and are welcome to experience. Additionally, you understand the intricate processes behind that beauty. You know that there are micro processes within every organism, and macro processes in which every organism is a part of. You understand that our ecosystem is complex, yet delicate, and that it has the ability to repair itself when links are added or taken away. You also know that the disruptions we are making to it now may be unrepairable, serving as detrimental to us and all other life forms on this planet. You recognize the significance of the damage we are doing to our home, and put forth tremendous effort to stop that damage. Despite hardships and criticisms, you push on. You strive to keep our air clean, our oceans healthy, our lands and wildlife thriving, and our climate in balance. Most importantly, you recognize that this earth is the only we have, and that it is too precious to lose. You have inspired millions of people to come together to save our planet, so that futures generations can reap the benefits and enjoy it just as we have. For you and all your efforts, I say thank you.
Throughout my schooling journey, my perception of education and what it means has evolved. As a student, I used to think education was very black and white – you learned what the teacher taught in school, studied to do well, and eventually graduated with a university degree in order to get a job. As I’ve grown older however, I’ve realized that the purpose and meaning of education is not as simple and clear-cut as I once thought it to be. People now argue that the lessons learned in school are not the most valuable or applicable you will ever learn. A university degree no longer guarantees you a solid career. Education is continually changing and being tested, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in it. The following quote by Martin Luther King Jr. explains the broader and more purposeful implications of education, and reflects my current views on the subject: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” To me, education is more than blind memorization. It is true learning that should serve the purpose of making a difference in the real world. We must learn to critically analyze the world around us in order to make beneficial decisions for ourselves and our future. If we have the ability to think critically, what doesn’t education make possible? In addition, what is education without character? The ability to think critically is of no good use if it is not paired with good character to make beneficial decisions. To me, the role of a teacher is to foster the development of critical thinking and honorable character in his/her students. The roles of school and curriculum should act as catalysts in this goal. School should encourage these principles, and curriculum should be a basis of knowledge, which can be continually challenged and altered. If education can be more prominently conceptualized in this way, we have the opportunity to build a better future for all.