Creating the Need to Pay Attention
Field trips and adventures in the woods are tremendously important experiences for children, especially those students that don’t often get to spend time in a natural setting. Some of the most important, lasting results of good Environmental Education are the heartfelt connections that young people make with nature. They value the natural world because they have experienced first hand the beauty and magic of living ecological systems. To really feel this in a personal way, the kids have to go outside and experience it.
by Chris Laliberte
he excitement of exploring outside with friends and classmates can turn a well behaved class into a pretty raucous crowd, and in all the commotion, it’s very easy for students to pay more attention to each other than to the woods around them. And while they might huddle up at each interpretive spot for a brief lesson or activity, what teacher or educator could possibly be there with each student for the whole walk, helping them learn from each moment as they explore the landscape with all their senses? The trick to making the entire outing an intense learning experience is to find ways to ensure that the students are invested in paying close attention the whole time.
“Tree Tag” is the classic example of creating a need to pay attention. Kids love to play tag, and they NEED a base, some place to avoid the tagger. So when base is whatever kind of tree the teacher calls out, the kids suddenly have a very real need to be able to identify trees correctly, so they can get to base. I love to watch what happens when kids disagree about correctly identifying trees, and they have to prove to each other what kind of tree it is. Tree Tag, however, illustrates a deeper point around creating need. A game of tag is a boisterous, wild, hectic thing. But remarkably, within this game is a fantastic heightening of awareness. The danger, the risk of being tagged, or the need to tag someone, is visceral. It creates physical and chemical responses in the body that affect awareness and the learning process. Adrenalated states provide a powerful opportunity for learning. Notice that this suggests an interesting point: in Tree Tag, the key dynamic for learning is the creation of a certain amount of anxiety, or a state of discomfort. This creates a very strong need to pay attention, and then the game focuses the heightened awareness onto something very detailed and specific — in this case, the differences in bark, leaf, branching pattern and color of different trees. By paying careful attention, the student can resolve the anxiety and get to someplace “safe.”
It’s a testament to the power of the adrenalated state that, more often than not, kids will leave base and venture back out into the fray on their own for another dose. Of course, some students will be reluctant to leave base, so the teacher can keep the game active by announcing that base is now a different kind of tree, and it starts again: more adrenaline, more awareness, more attention to details of different kinds of trees, more good learning about nature.
So how can this dynamic be harnessed so that it is present throughout the whole field trip? Here’s one method that has proved enormously powerful at Wilderness Awareness School. It’s called “Bird Language.”
The basic principle behind Bird Language is that birds love to gossip. They are constantly announcing to each other and the world around them just how they are feeling about their lives at that moment. It’s almost like a town crier who likes the job so much that s/he uses any excuse to make another public announcement. “The forest is calm and happy!” “The forest is still calm and happy!” But what birds love to talk about most of all is danger and peril. Anything that might possibly be a threat is immediately announced and pointed out. Jim Corbett, a famous tracker from India, once mentioned how puzzled he was that anyone could ever get eaten by a tiger. The birds and monkeys are so loud and aggressive in announcing the presence of any tiger, and even following along above it in the treetops, screaming out their warnings, that it seemed inconceivable to him that anyone could be taken unaware by a tiger in the jungle. By coming to understand Bird Language, students can learn to recognize all the movement and activity going on in the forest around them. They’ll know when raptors or other predators are moving through, or when animals like deer or raccoons are sneaking away.
Using Bird Language with your students starts with creating the need to pay attention to what the birds are saying. For some younger students, the possibility of seeing fairies or unicorns works wonders at getting them to listen for the announcements of the birds. This is especially good if students are already uncomfortable with being outside in the woods and need a little assurance. Our favorite strategy at Wilderness Awareness School is to set up the day so that students are hiking or exploring in small groups, and might at any time be ambushed by another group sneaking up on them. If you don’t have the ability to set up the ambush dynamic, or if the group is older and more callous to the woods, the classic anxiety here in the Pacific Northwest is the threat of the cougar. Wilderness Awareness School is very careful in using this particular set-up for bird language. We let students know that cougars are sneaky but cowardly hunters, who like to attack unseen and avoid a fight or struggle. To really help students feel the anxiety in a visceral way (like the threat of being tagged), you can describe the nerve endings in the canine teeth of the cougar that help it to feel just where to bite on your neck to cleanly sever the spinal column like scissors through a banana . Now, we are careful to point out that cougars don’t normally attack people. But they sometimes can’t help themselves when a really loud, obviously unaware, small, tasty looking person hurries by without paying any attention to the woods at all. But if you notice a cougar, and make yourself look tough, maybe yell at it, then the cougar won’t bother you. They’re really pretty timid once they’ve been found out.
Regardless of what strategy you use to create a need to pay attention, listening to Bird Language can provide the focus for your students’ heightened awareness, and will allow them to resolve their tension and anxiety appropriately. For if they are listening carefully to Bird Language, no cougar or group of kids will be able to sneak up on them without alarming the birds and giving itself away. Really accurate interpretation is a fine art, and requires a lot of practice sitting outside and investigating bird alarms, but mastery is not required for Bird Language to be a remarkably effective learning tool. Here are the basic details your students will need to know to be able to get started successfully:
Bird Language: A Quick Summary
Pay closest attention to the small ground-feeding birds: Robins, Sparrows, Juncos, Wrens, Towhees, etc. They are the best sentries.
Learn to distinguish the Five Voices of the Birds. The first four Baseline Voices indicate that the forest is relatively comfortable, and therefore “in baseline.” The last voice, the alarm, indicates a threat, usually a predator, often a human.
1. The Song: Birds singing their characteristic celebration, they are often loud but the feeling is very comfortable.
2. Companion Calling: Birds in pairs or groups call back and forth to each other regularly, either with their voice or with body movements, just to let each other know that they are alright. Usually this is soft, quiet language. It can occasionally sound scolding if one bird gets out of sight from another and fails to respond quickly enough.
3. Juvenile Begging: Young hatchlings can make quite a racket demanding to be fed. This repetitive whining may sound obnoxious, but don’t mistake it for distress.
4. Territorial Aggression: Generally made by males, this is loud, aggressive language that can sound like alarms, but you’ll notice that it doesn’t bother other birds (females, or birds of other species).
5. The Alarm is dramatically different from the four baseline voices. While the baseline voices sound like someone happily whistling, the alarm sounds like someone yelling for help. Different species sound different, but they all sound terribly upset, worried and nervous, and you’ll find yourself feeling that way too, when you open yourself up to really listening receptively to birds.
Watch the body language of alarming birds:
1. Where does it go when it alarms?
Does it fly up higher into the branches, or down low to the ground? Ground-feeding birds are typically brown, so they like to be down low where they are camouflaged and hidden. The only reason they fly UP is if there’s a threat on the ground. They will fly just high enough to avoid the danger, so how high up they fly is a good indicator of how high the danger can reach. If they go down, it’s because they’ll be safer down low in the thick brush, so it’s either a raptor or a threat that can’t get into the bushes (like a human).
2. Does the bird fly up and then look back to where it came from as it alarms?
If so, it was scared out of its place by something close by on the ground. Does it fly up and look forward, or out and around? If so, it was probably startled by a sound or another bird’s alarm and it is looking for the danger. It usually looks towards the source of the alarm (remember, these birds often look sideways).
3. Does it just fly madly away alarming as it goes? If so, it has been “plowed” out of the area, quite likely by a human.
Those are the very basics of Bird Language; however, the most important aspect of all is the “Secret Lesson” that you don’t even talk about. By attending to bird alarms, students soon realize that they themselves are disturbing the “baseline” of the forest. One of the old sayings from Kenya that young kids heard constantly was “Never disturb a singing bird.” Once they notice that they are scaring all the birds away, they begin to work at not alarming birds, and the transformation that this causes is remarkable. Once oblivious, boisterous and unconnected kids turn into quiet, observant, and respectful participants in the ecological community. Listening to birds now becomes a fabulous tool to encourage heightened awareness and a phenomenal source for amazing close encounters with animals that they want to see, like elk, deer, foxes, and raccoons, because now the birds aren’t warning these animals of the approaching students five minutes before they arrive.
In Wilderness Awareness School’s experience, Bird Language works best initially as the focal point for new students who have been “set up” to pay attention by the cultivation of a state of discomfort, and quite literally gives students the awareness they need to be safe, aware and feel comfortable in the woods. Remember, it will take some time to establish this as a routine for your students. They’ll need plenty of reminders early on. The most effective one is simply “Ssshhh! What was that? Did you hear that alarm?” Above all, have fun with it! You’ll be amazed at the transformation Bird Language can work in your students if you just stick with it.
Chris Laliberte is the Program Director for Wilderness Awareness School, a national not-for-profit environmental education organization based in Duvall, WA which is “dedicated to caring for the earth and our children by fostering appreciation and understanding of nature, community and self,” on the web at http://www.WildernessAwareness.org
Resources for Bird Language Study
The Language of the Birds and Advanced Bird Language: Reading the Concentric Rings of Nature, beginning and advanced audio series by Jon Young. Available at http://www.WildernessAwareness.org
Backyard Bird Walk and Marshland Bird Walk, and other recordings by Lang Elliott. Available at http://www.naturesound.com
Kamana One: Exploring Natural Mysteries, by Jon Young, part one of Wilderness Awareness School’s four-level independent study Kamana Naturalist Training Program. Includes bird language, tracking, wilderness living skills, traditional herbalism, and naturalist mentoring. Available at http://www.WildernessAwareness.org
Jungle Lore, by Jim Corbett. A powerful narrative from the Indian jungle which includes Bird Language lore.
Bird Tracks and Sign: A Guide to North American Species, a unique new resource for studying birds by Mark Elbroch , Eleanor Marks, and Diane C. Boreto.
A Guide to Bird Behavior, Vols. I,II, and III, by Donald and Lillian Stokes.
Peterson Field Guides: Western Birds, by Roger Tory Peterson.
A Birds World, permanent exhibit on Bird Language at the Boston Museum of Science. http://www.mos.org
by Gregory A. Smith
Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon
As news stories about global climate change, the peaking of oil production, or the threat of major water shortages appear more frequently in the mainstream press, it is not surprising that concerns about the long-term sustainability of institutions associated with industrial civilization have become common. Although national and global organizations have been involved with this issue since the 1970s, only in the past decade has the general public begun to attend to the degree to which our economy and way of life are vulnerable to the impact of human behavior on the natural systems that support our species. The term, sustainability, has become part of our daily language, and even though it is now employed to justify the efforts of transnational corporations as well as environmental organizations, its use points to a growing awareness that humanity can no longer ignore the environmental consequences of our activities and decisions. (more…)
The Cool School Challenge engages schools from all across the country in strategies to reduce CO2 emissions
by Katie Fleming, Rhonda Hunter & Kimberly Cline
Extreme weather events, rising sea levels, melting glaciers – oh my! While climate change is an overwhelming issue, there is certainly hope, especially in the collective power of individual actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the underlying principle of the Cool School Challenge, an innovative climate education program that motivates students, teachers and school districts to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions school-wide. At the heart of the program is the philosophy that big changes start with small steps – and taken together, simple individual actions create a world of difference. Cumulatively, we CAN reduce our carbon footprint and it’s already happening! (more…)
We need new strategies to preserve the habitability of the planet.
by David Orr
TRADING STORIES one day about smart animals, I heard from an old farmer who described a wily fox that appeared at the edge of a clearing in which his dog was tethered to a pole in the yard. Inferring from the pattern of tracks, the empty dog dish, and the fact that the dog was bound up to the pole, he deduced that the fox had run in circles just outside the radius of the dog’s tether until he had tied the dog up, at which point he strutted in to devour the dog’s food while the helpless mutt looked on.
Something like that has happened to all of us who believe nature and ecosystems to be worth preserving and that this is a matter of obligation, spirit, true economy, and common sense. Someone or something has run us in circles, tied us up, and is eating our lunch. It is time to ask who, why, and how we might respond. (more…)
Teaching the 3 R’s Through the 3 C’s: Connecting the Curriculum and Community
By Clifford E. Knapp
The exploration of the educational potential of communities through direct experiences is not a new idea. In 1912 naturalist, John Burroughs, wrote: “. . . The way of knowledge of Nature is the way of love and enjoyment, and is more surely found in the open air than in the schoolroom or the laboratory” (Burroughs, In Finch and Elder (Eds.), 1990, p. 275) In 1915 educator and philosopher, John Dewey, re-published some earlier speeches in his book, The School and Society. He wrote: “We cannot overlook the importance for educational purposes of the close and intimate acquaintance got with nature at first hand, with real things and materials, with the actual processes of their manipulation, and the knowledge of their social necessities and uses” (p. 11). Why has it taken so long for educators to expand their concept of classrooms to include community outdoor laboratories?
Today, many innovative educators are venturing into the community to enrich the curriculum and to energize the instructional program and their own teaching lives. Why are they doing this?
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Evidence from current cognitive research has shown that the human brain has two primary memory systems. First, the spatial system allows for “locale” or natural memory of past experiences in three-dimensional space and is enriched over time as humans increase their categories for storing information. Second, the “taxon” memory system is used for rote learning of isolated facts and skills and requires more practice and rehearsal for retention. Outdoor learning usually capitalizes upon the personal worlds of learners by engaging their locale memory systems through direct experiences within a nearby context. Humans understand and remember best when facts and skills are embedded in this memory system (Caine and Caine, 1994, pp. 41-46).
Howard Gardner, a psychologist, author, and educator, has identified eight human intelligences that have been used by some schools to plan balanced learning experiences for students. Recently, he described the naturalistic intelligence that meets eight stringent criteria, including an identified location in the brain and documented experimental data gathered by cognitive psychologists (Roth, 1998, pp. 9-11). The naturalist intelligence accounts for how people recognize patterns in nature and culture, classify objects, and understand relationships in their environment. It is “. . . the human ability to discriminate among living things . . . as well as [demonstrate a] sensitivity to other features of the natural world” (Roth, 1998, p. 7). Trips to local areas outside the school can develop this intelligence and result in long-term knowledge acquisition and retention.
One current educational reform effort involves providing students with authentic experiences and assessments. Educational authenticity simply means creating more realistic learning situations that mirror what others are doing in the community. Some educators also advocate a philosophical approach called constructivism – instructional strategies based on research about how people learn. This involves students actively learning and explaining their reasoning behind how they arrive at answers to questions of importance. Constructivism incorporates the support of groups of learners engaged in problem solving, reflecting, and connecting the lessons to prior knowledge and past experience.
Another educational trend relates to bioregional education or place-based pedagogy Woodhouse & Knapp, 2000). As urbanization and information technologies increase, the innate, genetically programmed human need to relate to natural places has emerged from our ancient past. The scientist, E. O. Wilson, named this human affinity for nature “biophilia”. Some educators believe that without a sense of place, students can not fully know who they are and where they fit into the community. Most suburban and urban students and teachers don’t understand where their drinking water originates, can’t identify many native trees or birds, don’t know whether the moon is waxing or waning, or have ever seen the stars over the city. How can people feel whole without an awareness of their bioregion”s natural cycles and processes? Many youth are growing up with little firsthand knowledge of where they live and therefore, don’t know their ecological addresses or understand how their ecological footprints relate to their consumptive lifestyles. The only field trips many urban and suburban youth take are via the software programs chosen for their computers. Learning, conducted in the context of the community, helps students to better comprehend the relationship of the school curriculum to more of life’s pleasures and problems.
Another educationally relevant field has been labeled, “ecopsychology” or “conservation psychology” – the combination of ecology or conservation and psychology. One principle advanced by ecopsychologists is that humans need natural spaces to relieve the modern-day stresses of crowded and fast-paced living. Breathing clean air, viewing green plants, and caring for and observing animals can improve mental health and relieve some forms of stress and depression. Educators have only begun to understand the importance of direct contacts with the green islands located within steel and concrete dwelling places.
One of the most promising new outdoor education studies resulted from a 12-state research project funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and conducted by Gerald Lieberman and Linda Hoody. The study described the common features of instructional “best practices” and the factors leading to student learning in 40 K-12 schools across the United States. These schools were selected because they used natural and socio-cultural environments as integrating contexts (EIC) for learning. “Evidence gathered from this study . . . indicates that students learn more effectively within an environment-based context than within a traditional educational framework.” “. . . EIC appears to significantly improve student performance in reading, writing, math, science and social studies, and enriches the overall school experience” (Lieberman and Hoody, 1998, p. 2). Although more research is always needed, this study provides some support for teachers who believe that sometimes the community can be the best laboratory for learning and applying certain educational goals, standards, and benchmarks.
In our graduate course, “Integrating the Community into Curriculum and Instruction” we used two other community-based educational models to guide our learning. We chose the Foxfire Program (The Foxfire Fund, 1990), a nationally recognized, student-centered approach and Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, (Campbell, Liebowitz, Mednick, and Rugen (Eds.), 1998), a program initially funded by the New American Schools Development Corporation in 1992. Both of these programs are currently operating successfully in schools across the country and have shown that a wide range of students can learn important objectives and become motivated and actively engaged in the process. Each of these programs employs several core principles and practices that reflect sound experiential-learning philosophies. These project-based models place high priority on student decision making, critical and creative thinking, and problem solving in the context of the community and local issues. School curricula that are more reality based and immersed in local contexts are becoming more accepted by school boards, parent groups, and educational leaders around the country. Several states and school districts, including the Chicago Public Schools, have required service learning programs designed to connect students to the wider community and teach civic values. These types of explorations beyond the classroom walls increase the chances that the curriculum will be more meaningful now and in the future. The following writers hope that their articles will inspire learning adventures in local areas, including school sites, businesses, agencies, industries, nature centers, museums, parks, historical sites, residences, and natural areas. Will you accept their challenge of teaching with the three C’s in mind?
Burroughs, J. (1912). The gospel of nature. In Finch, R. & Elder, J. (Eds.). The Norton book of nature writing. (1990). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Caine, R. N. & Caine, g. (1994). Making connections: Teaching and the human brain. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
Campbell, M., Liebowitz, M., Mednick, A., & Rugen, L. (1998). Guide for planning a learning expedition. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
Dewey, J. (Fourth Impression, 1959). The child and the curriculum and The school and society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Lieberman, G. & Hoody, L. (Eds.). (1998). Closing the achievement gap: Using the environment as an integrating context for learning. Poway, CA: Science Wizards.
Roth, K. (1998). The naturalist intelligence. Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight Training and Publishing, Inc.
The Foxfire Fund, Inc. (1990). The Foxfire approach: Perspectives and core practices. Hands On. Rabun Gap, GA: The Foxfire Fund, Inc.
Woodhouse, J. L. & Knapp, C. E. (2000). Place-based curriculum and instruction:
Outdoor and environmental education approaches. ERIC Digest EDO-RC-00-6. Charleston, WV:AEL, Inc.
The symbolic act of learning and living sustainability in the future should intermingle the fabric of natural systems and human made social systems
by Pramod Parajuli, Ph.D.
Doctoral Program in Sustainability Education
The hundreds of thousands of initiatives of this blessed moment are not about the bread and butter, or just about the soil and water alone. Art and the things of beauty are emerging from the most ordinary—a permaculture household in El Salvador, a thread of garlic organically grown in the Chino Valley, Arizona, a solar cooker in the remote Nepalese Himalayas, a Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, a sustainable fishing regulation in British Columbia, or a bag of coffee produced under the canopy of agro-forestry in Chiapas, Mexico. One solar cooker at a time, one biogas at a time, there are millions of solutions, sprouting amidst crisis and seeming chaos. The time has come as William Blake wrote:
To see a world in the grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
What might all these imply as we prepare the future generations of learners, educators and leaders? The eight transitional insights I offer below testify that the symbolic act of learning and living sustainability in the future should intermingle the fabric of natural systems and human made social systems—two most complex systems on earth. A new sustainable human trajectory will not be of humans alone shooting to Mars; it will require re-rooting ourselves with all our multiple senses, and working along with all more than human species.
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First, there is an Inviting Context: Climate of Change amidst Climate Change
By now, almost all have accepted that the climate change is real, undeniable, and is accelerating very fast. Most among us also admit that climate change is caused largely due to the way we live our lives, the ways we extract, use and waste our resources. Many also agree that it is urgent to address it from all dimensions. Fortunately, ferocity of these very real crises are accompanied by a “climate of change.” This is the focus of my paper here, a unique opportunitythat accompanies climate change.
The “climate of change” is evident in the way hundreds of thousands of people and groups who are already involved in changing the way we have been doing things, living our lives or using our tools. In his new book, Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken estimates that worldwide there are at least 2 million such initiatives. Maybe there are more, certainly not less.
Second, learning sustainability should help us live lives and be well in the World.
Let me offer a working definition of learning sustainability. Learning sustainability is “an art and a process that could reorient human beings to become a beneficial member of an abundant biosphere.” First, it is an art and a process. Second, the intent of this art and process is to reorient humans from one mindset/worldview to another that will then lead to new visions, dreams and designs. Third, humans can be beneficial members of the biosphere and that the human needs and that of the biosphere do not have to be in conflict but can be mutually enhancing. Fourth, the biosphere is abundant and based on that we can create foundations for an abundant and equitable human life. Fifth, that we can prepare the next generation who can be beneficial members and who can make the biosphere abundant.
As sustainability educators, at the core of our concern is nothing less than “life” itself. For me the message is loud and clear: We can be resilient and bounce back towards a sound and satisfying life systems for humans and other-than-humans. But as the author of Biomimicry, Janine Benyus, advises, we have to learn from our own evolutionary trajectory and the memory line of DNA. She reminds us to be humble of our techno-industrial accomplishments because other organisms have done everything we humans want to do without guzzling fossil fuels, polluting the planet, over harvesting water, depleting soil or mortgaging their future. For example, how do other species clean themselves and why do humans need soap, shampoo and hot water to clean? Rather than asking “What is the least toxic detergent to use?”, a more hopeful question, Janine Benyus, suggests, might be: “How does nature stay clean?” How does nature thermo-regulate? How could our ecological designs be informed by these biophilic insights?
Third, Food and Gardens could be a Gateway to Deep and Delicious Social Engagements
For the last six years, I was involved in designing and implementing the learning gardens experiment in Portland, Oregon, and now in Prescott, Arizona. We found that engaging children and youth in food and garden can offer avenues for a mode of learning that is multicultural, multisensory, interdisciplinary and intergenerational (Parajuli, 2006; Parajuli , Dardis and Hahn, 2008).
We have been a pioneer in developing curriculum for K-8 children and youth who learn at any point in the continuum between, what I call the “soil to supper, and back to Soil
(the SoSuS) loop. The SOSuS Loop not only connects children and youth with the earth, it also connected people to people, communities to communities (Parajuli, 2009). We then explore the continuum between “food to foodshed” and “water to watershed.”
Our initial conclusion is that if designed carefully and tended with heart, learning gardens may offer a series of benefits to enhance and deepen learning:
• impact a school’s physical as well as learning environments
• lead to academic enrichment and achievement for students
• enrich learning of the whole child
• cultivate and nurture motivation, resiliency and leadership among children and youth
• promote multi-sensory learning
• be applicable to grade by grade, subject by subject, and season by season instruction and learning
• use recurring themes over K-12 span of experience
• effectively link ecology, culture and learning
• enhance interdisciplinary inquiry
• address and fulfill academic benchmarks
• provide the seasonal framework for learning
• teach both time (linear and cyclical) and a sense of place
• link experience to meaning, thought to action and classroom to community
• be the best sites for inter- and intra-generational learning, and
• connect/collaborate with the larger food and garden community
Not only in the arena of nutrition and learning, our engagement in food, water and soil can take us towards a mode of social engagement that is not only “deep” but also “delicious.” Interestingly, the flavor of local, organic, and sustainable food economy is much more alive in urban centers than in rural farms and communities. Here again we are witnessing the melting of the old fences that divide the rural from urban, industry from agriculture, soil from food and people from the planet. By changing our food habits and preferences, we are witnessing a wide-ranging and a deep process of change from the very belly of the techno-industrial beast and what the food author Michael Pollan calls, the nutritional/chemical complex. Transition towards local and sustainable food could give us the most delicious inter-economic partnership, as premised in the diagram below.
Fourth, Enhance Maximum Partnerships to create a world that is not only Ecologically Sustainable, but also Socially Equitable and Bio-culturally Diverse.
For the last seven years, I have developed and used a “Partnership Model of Sustainability” as a guide to practice pedagogy for transformational leadership among the new generation of learners and leaders. This model addresses the issues of economy and ecology on the one hand and equity and bio-cultural diversity on the other.
A brief description of the four partnerships follows.
Intra and Inter-generational partnership: Explores social classes, gender, caste, race, ethnicity and other human created institutions and practices of social inequities and cleavages. Attention to intra and inter generational equity and partnership is urgent because inequality is also at the core of current ecological crisis.
Inter-species Partnership: Addresses ecological, philosophical and ethical aspects of human’s relationship with the more than human worlds. I am teaching that we humans are nature in microcosm. “We are nature in every molecule and neuron,” says Paul Hawken. “We contain clay, mineral and water; are powered by sunshine through plants; and are intricately bound to all species, from fungi to marsupials to bacteria. In our lungs are oxygen molecules breathed by every type of creature to have lived on earth along with the very hydrogen and oxygen that Jesus, Gautam Buddha and Rachel Carson breathed” (Hawken, 2007:71-72).
Inter-cultural Partnership: Examines the field of biological, cultural, and linguistic diversities and the inextricable relations between the three. It is about recognizing what I call the “ethnosphere,” the diversity of knowledge systems and diverse ways of knowing, teaching and learning.
Inter-economic Partnership: Includes mapping and reshaping of the global North and South as well as the social and economic institutions, trade, arrangements for exchanges and surplus, fair trade and free trade, rural and urban, agriculture and industry, raw and processed materials, and producers and consumers. Moreover, water, food and soil will be one of the most critical elements in the future of humanity.
Fifth, Learn and Lead for both Biospehric and Ethnospheric Health.
Through a deeper probing of the partnership model of sustainability, I have learned that no human solutions could be found by just rearranging the human world. We need to reshape our relationship with the more than human world. In the same way, ecosystems regeneration could not also be achieved by “fencing off” humans from the so called pristine natural areas but by changing how humans live their lives (Parajuli, 2004; 2001 (a and b). Thus our challenge is how to maintain the delicate balance between biospheric health and ethnospheric health.
In order to create the confluence between the three realms, the learning environment should be multisensory, multicultural and intergenerational such that it fosters interdisciplinary inquiry. Much ink has been dried writing about multicultural education, as if adequate solutions were found simply by rearranging human relations, in race, class and gender terms. While that is absolutely necessary, it is tragically inadequate. I realize that the future lies in multi-sensory pedagogy that nurtures our multi-sensory engagement in and with the earth. As eco-philosopher David Abram awakens us: “The fate of the earth depends on a return to our senses.”
Sixth, Learning should inculcate Integral Visions and Designs
The readers of this journal have worked miracles in the outward-bound and experiential education fields. But most of this genre is poised as antithetical to skills needed for what I call the “homewardbound.” On the other side, many of us have worked in creating sustainable livelihoods, through agro-ecology, permaculture, fisheries, sustainable industries and such. These homeward-bounders have hardly any time to enjoy raw nature, like the “outwardbounders” do.
There is hardly any dialogue, sharing and mutual learning between the two genres. Such isolation does not allow us to find integral visions or integrative solutions. In other words, how could we bring the David Thoreau(s) and Wendell Berry(s) in the same imagination? Vandana Shiva(s) and Jenine Benyus(s) at the same table? I urge us to develop such learning designs that connect the outward-bounders with the homeward-bounders, the wild with the domestic, nature with culture and the forest with the farm. A deeply and truly integrative vision and design is needed to heal the wounds that have been inflicted between the cities, where most of the consumption happens, and the rural where most of the production happens. The same could be accomplished between the industrial sector that eats up bunch of raw materials and agriculture where such raw materials are sustained. How could we bind the buyers and the producers by the same thread of ecological health, diversity, justice and integrity?
Seventh, let us move from Discourse to Design
My students tell me that they want to learn deep sustainability in product as well as process, in content as well as the method of inquiry. I am convinced, it is not by saturating them with discursive pessimism (even when substantiated with facts) but cultivating in them incurable optimism but which is informed by reliable dreams and viable designs. In my courses, such as Leadership for Sustainability, Sustainability Theory and Practice, Modes of Scholarly Inquiry, each student begins to articulate his/her wildest dream that they want to achieve in ten years. Then they follow a 4Ds protocol: Diagnosis, Dream, Design and Delivery. It is important that we embrace diversity of learning needs of each student and let them grow into their own space and dreams. But push them to the wildest side, we must.
Eighth, Cultivate Leadership in the open Space of Democracy
Terry Tempest Williams has articulated the notion of open space of democracy for our turbulent times. She writes: Open space of democracy is interested in circular, not linear power—power reserved not for entitled few but shared by many (Williams 2004). I also want to introduce a fairly new book by Otto Scharmer, entitled, Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges. To begin with, Otto asks us to have open mind, open heart and open will. Only when we let go of the old habits, dreams and designs (the left line of the U), we can transition towards letting come of the new habits, designs and dreams (the right line of the U). The bottom line of the U is the incubation process between the letting go and letting come.
I urge the readers, you draw a U and practice for yourself.
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Pramod Parajuli is the Director of Program Development in Sustainabililty Education at Prescott College in Arizona. He has designed and developed various academic and community empowerment programs including the Learning Gardens and the Leadership in Ecology, Culture and Learning (LECL), a graduate program at Portland State University, Portland, Oregon (2002-2008). At Prescott College, he is incubating several new innovations that could build on its forty years of accomplishments and seek new heights and horizons.