Using snowpack data for inquiry, graphing and analysis

Using snowpack data for inquiry, graphing and analysis

Middle School Students Use Historic Snowpack Data to Gain Inquiry, Graphing and Analysis Experience

by Joe Cameron
Beaverton Middle School teacher

measuringsnowpack

NRCS Oregon hydrologists Melissa Webb and Julie Koeberle measure snow on Mt. Hood. Courtesy of USDA.

 

What do you get when you mix researchers, teachers, authentic science opportunities and a group of GREAT people? You get three summers of intense work, reinvigorated teachers, new ideas for the classroom and lots of fun!

For the last three summers I was lucky enough to be involved in the Oregon Natural Resource Education Program’s (ONREP) Climate Change Institute where teachers are matched with researchers to bridge the gap between the classroom and field research. The last two years I worked with Oregon State University’s Dr. Anne Nolin and Travis Roth examining snow pack changes in the McKenzie River Watershed. Investigating snow collection sites and collecting data led to discussions on how best to get students involved in authentic research and science inquiry investigations.

SWEet!SnowpackActivity

Handout for activity below.

One of my goals for the year was to get my students involved in authentic data collection and to gain more experience and practice in graphing. From this, SWEet! was born. SWEet is an activity that engages students in using historic snow data to investigate the SWE, or Snow Water Equivalent, and the changes taking place in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. Students graph and analyze data from SNOTEL sites and compare their findings with others in class to make predictions about future snowpack. In extension activities students choose their own SNOTEL sites in the Western U.S. and monitor snow data monthly throughout the snow year. This type of activity will in turn introduce students to long-term ecological studies in progress and support them to begin studies of their own.

In doing this activity with my students we first investigated their particular sites. I found this helped them personalize the data and they were very involved, especially using this “local” data. Then using their data they were able to create comparative line graphs and look for trends in the data, even with a complex and varied data set. These trends were then used to hypothesize possible effects of changes in the snowpack to their world and the economy and ecosystems found in Oregon.

SWEet! Oregon’s Snowpack and Water Supply

Author: Joe Cameron
Time: 50+ minutes
Grade Level: 6-12

Background

SNOTEL-The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) operates and maintains an automated system (SNOwpack TELemetry or SNOTEL) designed to collect snowpack and related climatic data in the Western United States and Alaska in order to develop accurate and reliable water supply forecasts. For over 30 years, data on snow depth and SWE (Snow Water Equivalent) have been collected from SNOTEL sites throughout the western US. This activity will use yearly SWE data from three SNOTEL sites in Oregon to look for changes and relate our snowpack to Oregon’s economy and environment.

Introduction

Familiarize students with Snow Water Equivalent (SWE), which is the amount of water contained in the snowpack. A simple reference for background information is http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/or/snow/?cid=nrcs142p2_046155. Also, you can do a simple class demonstration by taking a 500ml beaker of snow (or blended ice) and melting it using a hot plate. I have students predict how much water will remain after the ‘snow’ is melted. Then, we calculate the percent water in the snow to give them an example of one way to analyze this type of data.

After getting the students comfortable with SWE, you can give them the SWEet! Oregon’s Snowpack and Water Supply activity page. When I led this activity, we read through the introduction as a class and then directed the students to graph the data provided, make sense of their plot, compare their results with others in class and then draw conclusions. This lesson leads to discussions of our changing climate and possible changes in store for the people, plants and animals of Oregon.

Objectives
Students will access long term ecological data.
Students will graph SWE data.
Students will compare their data with data from their classmates.
Students will identify possible effects of a decrease in snowpack.

Vocabulary

SWE-Snow Water Equivalent; the amount of water found in snow.
SNOTEL-automated system that records snow depth and related data in the western United States
Trend-a general direction that something is changing
Snowpack-the amount of snow that is found on the ground in the mountains; usually measured at specific sites.

Standards

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

MS-ESS2-5. Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather.

MS-ESS3-5. Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

Oregon Science Standards

Scientific Inquiry: Scientific inquiry is the investigation of the natural world based on observations and science principles that includes proposing questions or hypotheses, designing procedures for questioning, collecting, analyzing, and interpreting multiple forms of accurate and relevant data to produce justifiable evidence-based explanations.

Interaction and Change: The related parts within a system interact and change.
6.2E.1 Explain the water cycle and the relationship to landforms and weather.
7.2E.2 Describe the composition of Earth’s atmosphere, how it has changed over time, and implications for the future.
7.2E.3 Evaluate natural processes and human activities that affect global environmental change and suggest and evaluate possible solutions to problems.
8.2E.3 Explain the causes of patterns of atmospheric and oceanic movement and the effects on weather and climate.
8.2E.4 Analyze evidence for geologic, climatic, environmental, and life form changes over time.

Materials
For Demonstration:
1 500 ml beaker
1 50-100 ml graduated cylinder snow OR chopped/blended ice
1 hot plate

For Activity:
Copies of SWEet! Oregon’s Snowpack and Water Supply activity page
Graph paper
Optional: colored pencils/pens

Lesson Procedure

1. Give students the SWEet! Activity page.

2. As a class, read and review all directions.

3. Students may choose 1, 2, or 3 sets of data to graph. This option allows the activity to be modified to meet the individual students’ abilities. Also, students can create graphs that can be compared to multiple data sets.

4. Students graph the data in a line graph.

5. Students analyze the data. This part can be completed through drawing a trend line(s) on the graph, calculating averages, adding totals and/or comparing multiple data sets looking for similarities and differences. Note: having the students do their graphing using Excel spreadsheets is an option that is not always available in our school but from which the students would benefit.

6. Relate the observed trends in snowpack to possible effects in Oregon. Who/What will be affected? How will/might they be affected?

7. Students pose one other question OR concern they have after looking at their graphs and trends for possible additional exploration.

Extensions

1-Related current event articles from Science Daily:

Warming Climate Is Affecting Cascades Snowpack In Pacific Northwest
Found at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090512153335.htm

Global Warming to Cut Snow Water Storage 56 Percent in Oregon Watershed
Found at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130726092431.htm

2-Students can access current snow year data online. They go to SNOTEL website, choose a specific site and collect daily, weekly or monthly data for this site throughout the winter months (the snow year stretches from November to March). Students can also access historic data going back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s for their sites.

References Science expertise was provided by the following Oregon State University Faculty: Dr. Anne Nolin – Professor and Travis Roth-Doctoral Student in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. Data are from the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) SNOTEL website at: http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov

Acknowledgements These lessons were created using information learned in the Oregon Natural Resource Education Program’s Researcher Teacher Partnerships: Making Global Climate Change Relevant in the Classroom project. This project was supported by a NASA Innovations in Climate Education award (NNXI0AT82A).

Thanks to Dr. Kari O’Connell with the Oregon Natural Resources Education Program at Oregon State University and Dr. Patricia Morrell in the College of Education at University of Portland for their thoughtful review of this article.

Joe Cameron is a teacher at Beaverton Middle School in Beaverton, Oregon. He can be contacted at joe_cameron@beaverton.k12.or.us

Don’t call it “Climate Change”

Don’t call it “Climate Change”

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Barack Obama, scientists and campaigners have all looked at how to engage Americans more powerfully on the environment. Now researchers have come up with one critical piece of advice: do say “global warming”, don’t say “climate change”.

New research released on Tuesday found Americans care more deeply when the term “global warming” is used to describe the major environmental challenge. “Climate change”, in contrast, leaves them relatively cold.

Read the article in The Guardian.

Climate Change, Youth and Hope: Debunking the Paradox

Climate Change, Youth and Hope: Debunking the Paradox

by Megan McGintyCCC-Reidel_Baker-500x332
North Cascades Institute

Last year we began a service-learning summer program for high school students focusing on climate change. The Climate Challenge program consisted of a summer residency in the North Cascades followed by a service project in which elementary-school students were taught by the returning high-school students back in their home communities that fall. We planned a challenging field itinerary for the summer portion – studying glaciers, interviewing scientists and exploring hydrological systems. The student team made both geographic and intellectual discoveries and practiced presentation skills in order to bring their stories to their hometowns. We anticipated that they would struggle to master new skills, become proficient communicators, and hoped that they would become passionate teachers.

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What we did not anticipate was the strength of the reaction from the adult audiences that the students encountered. The first clue was a rant posted online in response to an article in the local newspaper that briefly mentioned the then-pending program. (From the reference to “enviro-nazi youth,” I can only assume the comment was made by an adult.) Other reactions were far more favorable. People consistently commented upon how inspiring the students were, mentioning the word ‘hope’ again and again. The rangers and resource mangers that showed the students their daily work thanked us for the opportunity to interact with the students. The most striking meeting happened over dinner at our environmental learning center one evening when the students gave a brief impromptu presentation as a way to introduce themselves to a group of adults attending a naturalist class. When the students sat down, a woman across the room stood up and turned towards them. “I want to thank you all. We have done such a poor job of taking care of the Earth and now my generation has left you such a mess. I am so grateful to you and want you to know you are our only hope.” By this time, tears were running down her face, the dining hall was still and a few other adults also had red eyes. As she sat down, I looked over at the students, who were gape-mouthed. I had been nervous about them confronting the enormity of the task before them and wondered if the woman’s address would discourage them.

Over the course of the rest of the program, the students referred to that night as the point when they began to take the program more seriously, realizing that people were relying on them in earnest to address climate change. At times the amount and intensity of the expectations being put forth seemed a bit overwhelming and unrealistic for the students. As staff, we were often asked how to teach kids about climate change without getting depressed or depressing them.

climatechallengeAmid all this, the students never struck me as burdened. Yet neither did they seem uninformed. If anything, they were saturated with information and were quick and adept at adopting new ideas and applying scientific concepts. Flux seems to be a natural state of affairs for them.

The youth who are growing up now, with climate change as a primary concern, are facing a far different threat than any confronted by previous generations. Since the founding of the United States of America, people have faced civil war, wars in Europe, unrest over race, wars in Asia and the possibility of annihilation by nuclear war. While variations of all these threats still exist (and may always be present to some extent), they are all generated by humans.

In these cases we are both the victims and the agents. Meeting these challenges is a matter of appealing to the humanity that lies within the enemy, an enemy that is biologically identical to us and therefore subject to all the great strengths and debilitating weaknesses that we ourselves are capable of. Hope is rooted in our vision of ourselves not just as a nation or race, but as a species.

The problem with casting climate change as a foe is that we can barely define it or its effects in concrete terms. At best it is a poorly understood process, driven by forces that we struggle to comprehend, let alone grasp well enough to manipulate. We may know enough about the gross concepts behind the carbon cycle, meteorology and hydrology to understand that our climate is changing, but these topics become exceedingly challenging and intricate when combined with the physics of aerosols and clouds, quantum mechanics and paleoclimatology. In addition, climate change occurs on a scale far greater than most of us can easily fathom. We know what tens of thousands of years is, but how many of us can honestly say we have an actual operating sense of even a hundred years? In terms of both the mechanisms involved and magnitude of change, climate change is a great unknown. The level of uncertainty posed by climate change is far greater than that posed by war.

This is probably where the generational hinge folds. Students today see climate change as a static fact, a reality that looms in the form of species loss, desertification, and wars about water. They consider themselves optimistic yet realistic. They expect to see changes in the climate, but they also expect to adapt, to develop technologies for a different planet and to live under laws that strictly regulate the use of resources. They anticipate losing habitats, biodiversity, and undeveloped landscapes. I’ve asked students what they think the difference between older people’s views of climate change are compared to theirs. Upon hearing their answers, it occurs to me that the fear surrounding climate change is ours, not theirs. Climate change is a great unknown, but this is true of so many other factors in these students’ lives- whether they will go to college, fall in love, have children, what career they will choose, whether they will encounter fortune, illness or wealth. To them, the issues resulting from climate change are among a host of many other big questions. These students still embrace uncertainty, and right now, that fact is to their advantage.

This past fall, the same students that addressed the group in the dining hall were presenting their views on youth, climate change and involvement before a panel of federal officials. One young woman stood up and related a pivotal moment that occurred for her during the summer. As she spoke about standing on top of a mountain and realizing that the land as far as she in every direction was public land, her voice cracked and tears ran down her face. She took a deep breath and continued. “I realized that this land was my responsibility and that I want to do everything I can to protect it into the future.” While some of us may see a reason for despair, there are others who hear a call to arms.

When these students learn about pressing issues, their response is a desire to inform others about it. They intend to catalyze the change they believe their communities need. One student said “It’s easier for us because people who grew up earlier kept seeing things get better and all we’ve seen is things go downhill.” They consider themselves naïve, but are looking forward to making and seeing change. They realize that not all the changes will be good, just as they realize that they will not be successful in all they undertake. They also understand that climate change has winners and losers, but they see no reason why they, and we, can’t adjust.

session2group4Perhaps as these students age, and go on to both succeed and fail at the challenges that occur in the course of their life journeys they will become jaded, tired and lose hope. Their expectations don’t seem as high as those of students 10 or 20 years ago, but they also seem to be more accepting of the situation. I am confident that as they go out into world they will find some assumptions that they are working under to be far more challenging than they imagined, but also suspect that their lack of pre-set notions about what should be will serve them well as they innovate and adapt their way onward.

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Educating for Eco-Justice…in an Era of Ecological Uncertainty

Educating for Eco-Justice…in an Era of Ecological Uncertainty

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by Chet A. Bowers

W3hat is ironic, even tragic for future generations, is that the various approaches to educational reform being advocated by politicians, parents, and professional educators in the United State do not take account of the rapid changes occurring in the Earth’s ecosystems. Equally tragic is that these approaches to reform, like an unchecked virus, are spreading to other regions of the world.

These reforms do not take account of the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring and that is it being caused by human activity. Nor have the decline of key fisheries such as those of the Grand Banks and the North Sea, and the impact of the over 80,000 synthetic chemicals introduced into the environment on the viability of natural systems ranging from marine ecosystems to human health, influenced the different agendas for educational reform. Indeed, one of the central points to be made is that the reform proposals, as varied as they are, are based on a common set of cultural assumptions that were formed before there was an awareness of ecological limits.

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This indifference toward considering the educational implications of the ecological crisis will lead to a further expansion in economic activity and technological dependence that, in turn, will continue the pattern of undermining the sustaining capacity of natural systems. That globalization is also being understood in terms of expanding markets in ways that will introduce more of the world’s population to the North American lifestyle of consumerism makes the prospects of future generations even more problematic.

Proposals for educational reform being adopted in the United States and elsewhere can be grouped into three categories: (1) the so-called conservative agenda of promoting school accountability, a voucher system, and charter schools; (2) the across the political spectrum support for making computers the central feature of the educational process; and (3) the continuing efforts of professors of education who carry on the Dewey/Freire tradition of thinking of the classroom as preparing students to develop the critical capacity to construct their own knowledge and values.

GreenTeacherColorAd06The suggestion that these approaches to educational reform are based on a common set of ecologically problematic cultural assumptions may appear as naïve and thus ill founded. However, closer consideration of the conceptual basis of these approaches to educational reform brings the problems into proper perspective. The drive to hold teachers accountable for student achievement, as well as the efforts of parents to exert more control over the education of their children (home schooling, vouchers, charter schools) are largely driven by a concern with ensuring that students are better prepared to enter a rapidly changing work environment—and thus to enjoy the benefits of a consumer dependent lifestyle.

The massive financial effort to make computers the primary medium of learning is based on the assumption that cyberspace will be the venue for most of tomorrow’s relationships, communication, and economic activity. The advocates of computer mediated learning justify marginalizing the role of public school teachers and university professors on the grounds that access to data better enables students to construct their own knowledge. Furthermore, as computers are being viewed as free of the misinformation and ideological bias of public school teachers and university professors, they are widely supported by advocates of the so-called “conservative” list of educational reforms.

Before explaining the nature of the deep cultural assumptions that underlie these three often overlapping approaches to educational reform it needs to be pointed out that the liberal and radical approaches to educational reform, where the emancipation of the student from the influence of intergenerational traditions is the main goal, are also complicit in contributing to a lifestyle that is ecologically unsustainable. That is, emancipatory approaches to education undermine different cultural approaches to passing on intergenerational knowledge, including patterns of moral reciprocity, essential to less consumer driven lives.

Contrary to conventional thinking, emancipatory approaches to education do not represent an alternative to traditional approaches to education that further technological development and economic growth. What is seldom recognized is that the goal of educational emancipation is based on the same cultural assumptions that were the basis of the Industrial Revolution. These shared assumptions include the following: that change is constant, linear in nature, and the expression of progress; that the autonomous individual is the basic social unit and that attaining even greater autonomy is a constant goal; that anthropocentrism is the most efficacious way of relating to Nature. The connection between the ideal of the emancipated, self-directing individual and the form of subjectivity required by the Industrial Revolution can be seen in the way the individual who has been liberated from intergenerationally acquired knowledge, skills, and patterns of mutual aid is more dependent upon consumerism to meet daily needs.

These same cultural assumptions underlie what is mistakenly called the “conservative” educational reform agenda. With the exception of some approaches to home schooling and charter schools, the conservative reforms are also based on thinking of change as the expression of progress, the individual as self-directing and a competitor in the market place, and an anthropocentric way of relating to Nature—and that these assumptions should be adopted by other cultures as the basis of their future development. The more ideologically driven approaches to educational reform are also based on the assumption that the “invisible hand” that supposedly governs market activities will also ensure that the best will emerge from the competition between approaches to educational reform. While the label of conservatism goes unquestioned by the general public, the underlying assumptions upon which their educational proposals are based gave conceptual direction and moral legitimacy to the Industrial Revolution and were more fully articulated by Classical Liberal thinkers—neither of which contributed to conserving self-reliant communities, different cultural ways of knowing, and biodiversity.

Before explaining why the ecological crisis now requires that we adopt educational reforms that are genuinely conserving in nature, the ideological orientation inherent in computer mediated learning needs to be made explicit. Contrary to popular thinking, and to how they are represented in the media and by the computer industry, computers are not a culturally neutral technology. The culturally specific way of knowing reinforced by computers can be more clearly recognized by comparing the forms of knowledge and relationships that can be digitized with those that cannot be abstracted and encoded without being fundamentally changed. The digitized forms of knowledge and relationships reinforced by computers include the following: (1) explicit and context-free forms of knowledge that can be represented as objective data and information; (2) a conduit view of language that supports the myth of objectivity and individually-centered rational thought; (3) the experience of being an autonomous individual who makes decision and value judgments; (4) a subjective perspective on what aspects, if any, of tradition and the future are relevant; ( 5) a taken-for-granted attitude toward the commodification of thought and communication; and (6) an anthropocentric perspective on human/Nature relationships

The following forms of knowledge, relationships, and experiences cannot be digitized and represented on the screen without being fundamentally misrepresented: (1) the tacit, contextual and analog patterns of daily experience—which vary widely among cultural groups; (2) the layered metaphorical nature of language—which includes the root metaphors that provide the meta-schemata that frames the process of analogical thinking and are encoded in the iconic metaphors used in daily discourse; (3) the culturally specific nature of intelligence and patterns of metacommunication that are the basis of moral reciprocity; (4) the differences in how members of different cultures experience the past and future as integral aspects of the present; (5) the face-to-face intergenerational knowledge that includes identity forming narratives, rituals, ceremonies, and mentoring relationships; (6) the embodied forms of knowing that connect thought and self-identity to the local landscape.

The culturally specific way of knowing and communicating reinforced by computers has largely gone unnoticed by academics and members of the dominant culture, partly because of the widely held assumption that computers are a tool and partly because the cultural patterns reinforced by computers are identical to the conceptual patterns learned in public schools and universities. Indeed, a strong case can be made that computers reinforce the patterns of thinking and communicating that were the basis of the Industrial Revolution—and that the globalizing of computer mediated thinking now reinforces what has become the digital phase of the Industrial Revolution. Computers are used in many important ways, including their usefulness in eco-management projects. But they are nevertheless a colonizing technology that undermine cultural traditions not centered on individualism, consumerism and a material view of progress, and dependency upon technologies created by the increasingly close alliance between universities and international corporations.

Instead of educational reforms based on the environmentally destructive assumptions that that have guided the process of modernization over the last 300 or so years, we (and the world) need to adopt approaches to education that are genuinely conserving in orientation. This will require basing educational reform on the following assumptions: (1) that humans are not separate and thus not in control of nature, but are integral and thus dependent upon Nature’s self-renewing capacities; (2) that cultural/linguistic diversity is essential to maintaining biological diversity; (3) that intergenerational knowledge that strengthens the ability to live less consumer dependent lives must be given a more central place in the curricula of public schools and universities; (4) that curriculum reforms should contribute to democratizing decisions about the development and use of technology, and the priorities in scientific research. Eco-justice is the phrase that best takes these assumptions into account, as it represents a fundamental shift in how to understand the connections between education and the renewing of communities in ways that lead to a smaller adverse impact on ecosystems.

The aspects of eco-justice that can be addressed most directly by reforming our educational institutions include the problem of environmental racism, the disparity of wealth and political power between North and South caused, in large part, by the hyper-consumerism required by the economies of the North; the need to renew the intergenerational knowledge still retained by different cultural groups that represent alternatives to consumer and technology dependent lifestyles; and right of future generations to live in environments that have not been degraded. Addressing these eco-justice issues will require educational reforms that enable students to understand how language carries forward earlier ways of thinking that did not take account of how cultural ecologies are dependent upon natural ecologies. Curricular reforms also need to enable students to understand the ecological implications of print-based intergenerational knowledge that creates new forms of economic and technological dependencies, and the forms of face-to-face intergenerational knowledge that contributes to greater self-sufficiency and mutual aid within families and communities.

Specifically, this means helping students become more fully aware of the many aspects of daily life that have become commodified, and that contribute to the cycle of turning Nature into products that, after a short use, are returned to the environment in the form of toxic waste and every expanding landfills. In addition to surveying how dependent the average person has become on monetized relationships and activities, it is important for students to learn about the non-monetized aspects of community life. These will vary widely, depending upon cultural group. This requires learning about the forms of intergenerational knowledge, skills, and activities that are passed on in face-to-face relationships. Who are the elders of the community? And how are they different from older people still committed to the materialistic promise of success and happiness that has contributed to trashing the environment? Who are the mentors that can introduce the students to the arts, gardening, healing, and craft knowledge—and can model how to live more self-sufficient lives? What ceremonies, forms of entertainment, and nature-centered activities are still carried on within different cultural groups? Who are the storytellers who can help students obtain a more long-term understanding of the bioregion that sustains them. Stories of human hubris that have led to degrading the environment, as well as accounts of how others have lived by an environmental ethic, will help students understand how they are connected both to the folly and wisdom of previous generations, and to the land.

Learning about the face-to-face traditions still carried on within the different cultural groups that make up the student’s neighborhood, as well as how to participate in activities that strengthen the bonds of community, is essentially a conserving activity. It contributes to the renewal of intergenerational knowledge, the nurturing of student talent, and the broadening of the student’s awareness of alternatives to being dependent upon shopping malls and the media. By reducing the dependence upon a consumer, technology dependent lifestyle, it changes the cycle that leads to dumping toxic waste in the backyards of the most vulnerable groups. It also reduces the need to exploit the environments of non-western cultures. And in slowing the transformation of the environment into products that fill the shelves of shopping malls, it helps to ensure that future generations will find an environment that has not been devastated by the greed and folly of previous generations.

Eco-justice oriented educational reforms will contribute to reducing economic growth, which is now being forced upon us by global warming and other changes in natural systems. But this should not be viewed as lowering people’s quality of life. Indeed, as more emphasis is put on participatory relationships and activities that expand personal talents and mutual interests, the quality of life will be expanded. As a writer from the Third World put it, we need to understand wealth in a new way. That is, wealth should be understood in terms of the quality of relationships and community-centered lives and not in terms of economic gains that degrade personal lives and the diversity of the environment.

While the educational reforms suggested here go against the grain of current thinking, they are based on the realities of the present—and not on the myths that co-evolved with the Industrial Revolution. The educational reform agendas of the so-called conservatives, the techno-optimists, and the emancipatory educators continue to be based on a set of myths that represent progress as a human project that is independent of what happens to the environment. To reiterate a key point, the emphasis on the individual as a worker and consumer, as a participant in cyberspace, and as engaged in the unending quest of self-realization and emancipation, will not be easy to change—or even for many people to recognize as contributing to the ecological crisis. We are now faced with a scale of environmental change that has led to the demise of previous cultures that failed to change their belief system and technological practices. We now need to engage in a serious discussion of the educational implications of global warming, which should focus on the basis of our belief system and not just on technological fixes. And we need to learn from other cultures, particularly those that have not taken the western path of economic development, about how it is possible to live without economic activities becoming the dominant aspect of our lives.

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Chet A. Bowers is Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon. Professor Bowers’ most recent books include The Culture of Denial (1997); Let Them Eat Data (2000); and Educating for Eco-Justice and Community (2001); and Detras de la Apariencia: Hacia la Descolonizacion de la Educacion (2002).

Q and A: Michael Becker Talks About Hood River Middle School Outdoor Classroom

Q and A: Michael Becker Talks About Hood River Middle School Outdoor Classroom

Anne Marie Untalan, Michael Becker, and Ashley Sprouse, developers of the HRMS Outdoor Classroom Project.

Anne Marie Untalan, Michael Becker, and Ashley Sprouse, developers of the HRMS Outdoor Classroom Project.

CLEARING: What have been the most difficult issues in getting this project started?
Michael Becker: One of the Permaculture Design Method principles is to start small, and I highly advocate for starting with small projects that you can have initial success with. Trying to get space is often a hurdle, and if you can show that you have managed a small space efficiently and generated student interest and outcomes you’re more likely to be able to expand. It’s important to have a sense of where you’d like to go in the future but be focused on what you can do today. (more…)