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A tip o’ the hat to Antioch Educating For Sustainability alum Matt Diller for this video and blog posting. The video captures a place-based living history written by a third grader from The College School in Webster Groves, Missouri. Read all about it below!

This video was inspired by a visit to Mastodon State Park seeing and touching Mastodon bones and learning about prehistoric, Paleo-indian Clovis culture. We followed up with experiential activities on our land, throwing with an atlatl that we bought online, flint napping facilitated by a parent, cooking meat on a spit over a fire, tearing of the meat and eating it with our hands, and plenty of “close your eyes and imagine” guided imagery informed by our study of the the past. We also led the children to do an archaeological dig with help from yet another parent on our school’s property at LaBarque Creek. After digging three feet down in sandy soil under a shelter cave, we actually found pottery shards and flint tool flakes from the Woodland period dating 1,000 to 3,000 years ago.

Some students wrote their living histories in “imagined Clovis”, and wrote their own dictionary of imagined Paleo language. The reader had to use the student created dictionary to translate the text. The boy in this video, age nine, read what he wrote as a script to the video. His appearance in the video was from a visit to our land on LaBarque Creek. Kids imagined exactly where it would be most strategic to chase a Mastodon off a real cliff that they have climbed on, or to corner it up against an actual bluff that they know. They have brushed up against ferns and mosses those places that are not abstractions but real and touchable.

This was an important element of place-based education. The students merged their academic and abstract understanding of ten thousand years ago with real topography and features of the land they walk on again and again today.  I believe the connection of place and understanding is deeper than academic. It approaches a hidden understanding that we rarely speak of that is potentially spiritual, emotional and transformative. The effort required for this curriculum design was made more sustainable with a strong partnership with parents. The outcome was priceless as is so much project-based, place-based, play-based, experiential and Educating for Sustainability inspired curriculum design.

Matt Diller
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by Ron LaBrusciano

This is an amazing story.  It speaks to the value of resourcefulness that is missing in the American education of children.  You may have heard the story of Caine Monroy’s Arcade on National Public Radio or been one of more than a million people who have watched Nirvan Mullick’s short film on YouTube. Here it is:

Somehow this child has either escaped technology and video games or leads a life that balances  play and learning of other kinds.  No fancy technology, no expensive arts materials, no programmed learning or instruction evident here – just an inquisitive child, an understanding adult, permission to play and create, and lots of boxes and throwaways.

Caine Monroy teaches us that we must sustain creativity and the joy of learning for its own sake. When we lose the opportunity to play with ideas and freely create we lose the essence of what makes us human. As Educators For Sustainability we must face the fact that curiosity and wonder can not be designed but must be fostered and allowed the space to flourish.

by Tom Julius

What do glaciers, bottled water, building highways, and seashore erosion have in common?

Global climate change for one.

Last night I had the wonderful experience of participating in the Surry Village Charter School 7th and 8th grade exhibition on Global Climate Change. Students displayed library research they had done in conjunction with the Student Climate Data project using the NASA Innovations in Climate Education curriculum. To find out more you can click the links in this post or check out the School, Curriculum, and Organization pages that are part of this website.

This was a great example of how to do Climate Change in a middle school classroom in a way that engages students in thinking about the Environment, Economics and Social Equity. They analyzed information and data from their library research, and discussed the ways the 3E’s are inter-related.
Finally, they presented to an adult audience. Its important to note that these students in grades K-6 had lots of opportunities to engage with their local environment and connect with their immediate community.

However, there are lots of examples of how climate change curriculum can foster fear in children. Educating For Sustainability faculty member David Sobel recently discussed this in his presentation “Climate Change meets Ecophobia” at the New England Aquarium. Check out his whole talk in the video below or go to the Green Schools Conference, February 27-29 and see David talk about this topic in person.

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