Week 1: Curriculum and Environmental Education

First off, I want to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Curtis Bourassa; I live on Treaty 4 land in southeast Saskatchewan. At the time of this post, I am in my fifth year as a teacher, my third year as an Instructional Technology Consultant with South East Cornerstone Public School Division. Before my current position, I taught for two years at a small rural school in Ogema, Saskatchewan, where I taught grades 4/5 and 6/7. I love being in the position that I am in right now. As a technology consultant, I support teachers to meaningfully implement technology into their classrooms and find solutions and opportunities that work for them.

Curriculum-as-Planned, and Curriculum-as-Lived

While reading Aoki’s Teaching as In-dwelling Between Two Curriculum Worlds, I reflected on some of my personal experiences of what Aoki highlights as Curriculum-as-Planned and Curriculum-as-Lived. In my current position, it involves planning resources, guides, and lessons that teachers can use and adapt within the classroom.  As I reflected on Aoki’s writing, I begin to ask myself, how can I begin to work with teachers to provide easily adaptable lessons and provide students with choice while also addressing the curriculum?  Aoki’s work Travis Fuchs, in Dwelling Between Curriculum-as-Planned and Curriculum-as-Lived in Science Class, addresses the importance that educators must find common ground between the two curriculum words to best support their students. Fuch’s provides many connections to bringing in students’ past science experiences or artifacts into the classroom.

Good teaching needs to be reflected in the experiences of our students.  This is why the building of relationships and getting to know students is important. By tapping into the funds of knowledge that students bring to school provides a broader understanding of the curriculum. This can include a variety of worldviews that are different from the dominant narratives.

The Importance of Environmental Education

After reading the first three chapters in David W. Orr’s Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect, the reading brought upon reflection of the goals of education.  Through these chapters and the Talk, Learning the Grammar of Animacy: subject and object by Robin Wall Kimmerer highlight the great importance of shifting our worldview to be more inclusive, respectful, and intentional to address the needs of mother earth and the protection of the environment.  And the role each of us has to give back to mother earth and be respectful stewards of the earth.

Orr highlights that the environment, from climate stability, resilience and productivity of natural systems, the natural world, and biological diversity is at risk. For this to change, we need to reimagine what education should be.  Education has been used to promote citizens to contribute to capitalist structures that continue to benefit the economy and continue to take and take, and rarely fix or address the greater impact on the environment.  However, what is needed is what Orr describes as the six principles of Rethinking Education, the first being: All education is environmental education.

Orr’s third principle, Knowledge carries with it the responsibility to see that is it is well used in the world, addresses the harm of technology and knowledge.  Provided were the examples of Chernobyl and the Ozone depletion.  These events bear the question, who is responsible? This principle reminds me of an article I read from a previous Master’s class, Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change by Neil Postman.  Postman addresses, we need to be aware that technology has a trade-off.  For every advantage of technology, there is a trade-off.  Currently, I think of how social media has been used to connect with one another throughout a global pandemic. On the other hand, I also recognize the harm it has done by the spreading of misinformation connecting to a range of current global issues, including the environment.

Lastly, I believe that Kimmerer’s talk provided steps forward for us to use with students and ourselves when teaching science to show respect for the environment, learn about our surroundings, and develop relationships with nature.  As Orr states in his introduction, “I believe that educators must become students of the ecologically proficient mind and of the things that must be done to foster such minds”. What I found very intriguing was the invitation Kimmerer provided to use the pronoun “Ki” (earth being) and “Kin” (earth beings) instead of “it” and when we are speaking to subjects from the natural world as a sign of respect.

These steps that Kimmerer provides as opportunities to give back to the plants to “reciprocate the gift”.  Last summer, I spent a lot of time exploring our beautiful province of Saskatchewan, travelling to La Ronge, Prince Albert National Park, Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Moose Mountain Provincial Park, among others. I also planted my first garden. Using the new worldview provided by Kimmerer will allow me to reciprocate the gifts of the plants. This includes,

  • Restoration: Healing the land and our relationship with the land.
  • Attention: Paying attention to the suffering of the earth and be responsible.
  • Learning the names of the plants that are around us as an act of respect.
  • Learning the Grammar of Animacy: Seeing the world made of persons and beings, not stuff.

We can take steps to teach our students and our children to develop a relationship with the environment and nature. Through education, we must learn how to become stewards of the land and protect the earth for future generations.

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