Thursday, November 6, 2014

What About The Environment

I am moved by the many ways in which researchers, and youth activists have worked to give youth a voice. This has given youth of all races, ethnicities, genders, socioeconomic class, and privileges agency to stand up for what is right and what they believe needs to be fixed in society. Chapter 18 in “Beyond Resistance” outlines many ways in which youth centered programs have aided in giving a voice to youth of all backgrounds a voice; however, I find it troubling that there are no environmental issues brought to youth’s attention to give them a voice to fight for the environment. Environmental concerns are a cornerstone to many of the problems that we have in the world today and more importantly the world of today is the world that we are leaving for the youth of today.
            It is not uncommon to hear anyone say that “Children are our future,” yet we continue to pollute the air, add toxins to the water, continue using large amounts of oil, burn coal, and argue over concerns of climate change. Even if one does not agree on some or any of these issues, many are a reality and can even be seen from your backdoor or in your local newspaper. I am not going to argue that racial, gender, sexual, and lingual issues are not important, they are, but I find it troubling that we have huge environmental issues going on today and no one is informing the youth of today of the world that they will be receiving. Everyone in the world, including youth, deserve to know what we as a society are doing to the planet and should be angered by what we are not doing.
            As a person who would position themselves as an environmentalist, I believe that it is our job to get youth involved when it comes to the environment. The planet does not belong to those in power or even those that have the right to vote, but to every living being. We should be educating our youth about the concerns of the environment and inviting them to the conversation. More importantly we should be rekindling the lost relationships to nature and the natural world that our society has lost. David Orr talks about the restructure of education, in creating a model of education to emphasize biophilia. The education system has made textbook learning the standard while ignoring the principles of nature where those concepts have been learned. We are telling youth to learn rules and formulas without even questioning ourselves if those are right or where they came from. Orr argues, that in moving away from nature we have become unintelligent as a society since we have stopped questioning the order of things and just take things for what they are. I hope that there is a change in the way we educate youth and begin to become students of the environment.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Looking into Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Nature

  Humanizing Research, I was struck by how important it is to practice culturally relevant pedagogy. Had it not been for this instructor to recognize the cultural significance of giftedness, Romero-Little may have been one more instructor that let her students fall through the cracks. It is just another piece in supporting the need for more teachers to practice culturally relevant pedagogy. On that same thread, I am led to question my own research and try to decipher what cultural practices I am hoping to teach. Interestingly enough it has been in front of me from the beginning of my research but I never looked at it in that way.

          After reading the chapter “Revisiting the Kres Study to Envision the Future” in
            Initially I was drawn to outdoor education through my own experience in the field and was pointed in the direction of David Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods. In summation, he addresses the main issue of nature deficit disorder and the importance of getting children exposed to nature and the natural world. On the same note as Louv, I ran across a recent article published in the Huffington Post titled “Nature Connection Will Be theNext Big Human Trend” which highlights the importance of connecting children to nature and their natural world. What I recognized in my own research and aims to create a curriculum using outdoor education pedagogy, is that I am making a broad cultural connection that all humans share and can relate to no matter what the color of one’s skin, ethnicity, and cultural heritage; which is nature. The important connection that I am intending to make is a new connection that students can have with nature and the natural world.

            This does not excuse myself and future teaching from practicing culturally relevant pedagogy, but broadens the scope of what culturally relevant pedagogy should include. I am and always have been on the mindset of ‘If its nice outside, why not have class outside’ and time after time I have been told ‘No!’ by teachers and instructors. The question that I am hoping to raise for culturally relevant pedagogy now is, isn't a student’s desire to learn outside part of their cultural identity as a human? Now clearly there is not always an appropriate time to host a class outside but shouldn't there be time in all of our classes to bring students outside to have that discussion, connect students with fresh air, grass and get them outside of the “normal classroom”. I don’t expect my project to be making ground breaking assertions towards this pedagogy but hope that for those who read it will begin to question themselves for never allowing for that student request to host class outside. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Connecting Levels of Awareness

Reading about the work that is being done at the Batey was fascinating and inspiring in the ways that they took an interest of the youth to give them a voice, instruction and help their sense of awareness among themselves and society. I really liked their levels of awareness that they wanted to develop in youth. From self, social and global awareness, the program moves to invite youth to build a self-identity, recognize social issues and global issues. These levels of awareness seem to hit at similar ways I would like to build awareness in my own ecocriticism curriculum. In looking at the three levels of awareness that are used in the Batey project, the projects that I want to develop look to focus on the same levels of awareness.

            Looking at self-awareness “a critical understanding of who they are” I will not be looking directly at the same issues but rather developing an understanding of self-awareness and connection to nature. I plan on building the first project to have students understand the ways in which nature and the environment is related to everything. Through inquiry of personal interests I plan to have students investigate the ways in which their interests relate to the natural world. Similarly I want to have students build their awareness on a societal level. “Critical[ly] understanding of how social forces shape inequality and how this affects their communities” I want to build an ecocritical view on the world. By having students read a collection of books addressing different ways in which individuals interact and understand the environment, students should become more aware of the their natural surroundings. This project will look at the different ways in which students can look at the environment and interact with it. Finally “global awareness” will look at the ways in which people are becoming activists in their own right even if they are not personally an active member of the science community or part of an environmental activist community. This will look into the ways in which students themselves can become part of the global community to make a change and give a voice to the environment. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Where are we leading youth

            A lot of readings have resonated with me this week in more ways than one. For starters Ben Kirshner’s chapter on “Apprenticeship Learning in Youth Activism” highlighted the relationship that can be built with youth and mentors in building active youth activists. Kirshner did a good job outlining the strengths and weaknesses with adult mentors while also explaining what successful mentors do. The implications in developing young leaders understands the opportunities that mentors need to offer to youth while also balancing how much of their own views are influencing their mentees. Mentors need to understand when they need to focus youth in a particular direction while also knowing when to fade into the background to allow for the mentee’s own voice to come out and gain agency. As a future teacher, this is the relationship that I want to foster with students. In many ways, the act of being a mentor has been a larger draw towards education then the art in teaching. This doesn’t mean that I hold the values of teaching lower than being a mentor, but rather I believe that apprenticeship fosters a stronger pathway towards education and learning. Personally my best teachers, in and out of school, have acted the role of a mentor.

            A mentor brings their own understanding of the world to relate to their mentee and guide learning, growth, action and development. Much like the Korina Jocson’s use of critical media ethnography, youth are inspired by mentors that see the potential in youth and help them achieve a voice through the act of an apprenticeship. Jocson’s research and programs like DV Poetry have allowed for youth to find a voice and become activists through poetry and hip hop. The world needs more people building these relationships with youth to promote activism, much like Jocson. While it may be obvious that adults need to mentor youth and build apprenticeships, “Takin the LEAD” raises good questions about what we are doing as adults to generate leaders. Who is leading the country? Who is speaking up for us? Who is generating the future leaders of the world? The questions brought up in this made me think of the documentary ReGeneratrion, which investigates our youth and the culture which is enables a passive generation through the media and politically silences them. This week’s readings bring serious questions about what we are doing as adults to prepare the future generation for success to the foreground. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Finding a voice for Youth

            After reading the introduction to “Beyond Resistance!” it is amazing that we still marginalize youth in so many ways. The opening chapter discusses the ways in which youth have been making strides in getting a voice in such a political world. Though we live in society that tries to view itself above the degradation of age, sex, race, gender, ethnicity our politics speak otherwise. As mentioned in the book laws are put into act that further punish youth for stepping over the line and act disobedient. This has caused a increases in drop-out rates, arrests, trying adolescents as adults and has even pushed students onto the streets in cities like New York. It comes as a shock to think that people view children as our future but continue to push their interest aside to better their own position. In thinking about the fight for youth to reduce the voting age to 20, it’s amazing that there hasn’t been a bush to further reduce the age to 16. Youth tend to be ignored and their interests are viewed as disobedient and unruly. But in a world where adolescents are not given political voice what other options are afforded to them to gain a voice. While politics are heavily invested in money and personal gain, youth are left with minimal options to have a voice heard. Though there are more and more organizations like InnerCity Struggle and FIERCE which are giving a voice to adolescents there seems to be so much more that we can do.

            While my project does not look directly at the marginalization of youth, I hope that it gives them a voice to discuss their own concerns with the environment. I will be making a curriculum to help students understand and appreciate the natural world and the environment and become readers of issues regarding these topics. I intend to have students begin to look critically at the issues revolving around the world in regards to environmental concerns. Through this understanding and critical approach, I hope to motivate students into becoming activists to help make a better future for themselves. It is apparent that as adults we have lost the relation that the world belongs to everybody and not just the ones in power or at least the voice to vote. Hopefully a project that gives youth that want to become environmental activists comes from my curriculum as I begin to implement it. This would give power to youth and one more voice to defend the environment. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Peeking Into My Research and PAR

            As the past week has been filled with writing for my research I have been fully engrossed in outdoor education pedagogy and John Dewey’s philosophy of experience. It is not to say that I discredit the importance of Participatory Action Research (PAR), but my focus has been else ware in my writing this week. Instead of writing in response to this form of research I am sharing the preliminary introduction to my research

              Take me to the river where I can learn all day; with seemingly endless miles of river to explore to fill the day with learning and fishing. The journey starts hours before getting to the river, reading river flows, lunar phases and hatch patterns. These events and experiences build upon one another to reach the ultimate experience of catching a fish. On the river a fisherman must take from previous experiences and apply it to the current to catch the elusive species. Reading the water, looking for fish lies and a ripple on the water to indicate where a fish may be hiding become the literacy of the fisherman as they connect and become one with their natural surroundings. The goal is to feel the experience of a fish at the end of the line and to see the beauty of nature, and when the fish has been landed the fisherman can reflect on the previous experiences to understand the true joy of fishing. A fisherman will never forget that feeling of a fish taking the fly and the line run through their fingers until the hook is set as this experience is part of a succession of experiences before. Philosopher John Dewey would attribute this as a quality experience through the line of experiences that reflect towards one another as they “live on in future experiences” (1938, 27). Stepping out of the world of fishing and into the traditional classroom, differences are apparent: trees have been chopped down to frame walls, the leaves have been milled into posters and papers, the rich topsoil is mirrored in the blackboard, while large boulders scattered across the river and neatly ordered into desks as fish have gone through years of evolution to sit at the desks as students. The world that the fisherman sees has become a controlled environment that can be seen as political and students come with the expectation to learn. What has come of the experience? Do the lessons and learning from the day of fishing get turned into lessons that reflect the same quality of experience or do they become single experiences with the intention of a single result? This project looks to utilize the philosophy of experience in pedagogy outside of the normal classroom.

            As I am beginning the writing process with continual research it is interesting to think of the ways in which PAR can play a role in what I am doing. It would not be until I put a curriculum into practices that I could fully engage in PAR, though I am totally open to the idea of this. I think that there is a lot that can be understood in this research and that it would pair well in outdoor education. As students tend to lose voice in research, response towards involvement of outdoor education would offer great insights to the impact that it has. Within marginalized groups, outdoor education could play an important role in student’s lives, giving value to their education as they interact with the natural world.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Trying to humanize my research

           Considering the importance of my research and who am I doing the research for brings up a lot of questions. In particular, will I go through the IRB process and also what is the importance of my research. Outside of my personal interests in outdoor education, my research acts in response to David Louv’s book calling attention to the necessity of engaging children with the wilderness and as an act of ecocriticism, hoping to engage children, particularly teens, in the natural world and greater concerns for the environment. For concerns of IRB and conducting human research I am still trying to figure out what level of human research is needed. At the moment I would only be involving interviews of educators involved in outdoor and experiential education. The question that I am facing is including my projected target audience. If I am doing research directing a curriculum at high school teens, isn’t it more important to have their voices heard instead of teachers or should I let the IRB complications influence the silence of that research group based on difficulty of proper approval for minors to participate in research?

 My next question involves the importance of the research. I understand the calling for more youth being engaged in the natural world, but what is the importance of this research and will it better the world by conducting the research. So far I have found a limited selection in this field which gives power to my research. On the other hand am I just pushing against the norms of traditional education in response to many political changes in the current educational process? I do not have any answers to these questions at the moment but as I continue my research I hope to have a better understanding of the importance and for who I am doing this research.