March 31st, 2011

Sustainability in Outdoor Education: Rethinking Root Metaphor

By Adrienne Cachelin, Jeff Rose, Dan Dustin and Wynn Shooter
Recognizing that behavior comes not only from understanding, but also from attitudes cultivated in outdoor settings that elicit visceral feelings toward nature, outdoor educators have unique opportunities to make sustainability comprehensive, accessible, and relevant.  Yet the principal metaphor underlying outdoor education in general, and the Leave No Trace (LNT) program in particular, may be counterproductive to fostering environmentally and socially responsible behavior.  We attribute this possibility to the prevailing ―humans as apart from nature‖ metaphor underpinning LNT and recommend it be replaced by a ―humans as a part of nature‖ metaphor grounded in heightened ecological understanding.  We contrast the tenets of LNT with those of As Sustainable As Possible and Conscious Impact Living, and with the work of ecologists and critical educators to illustrate the practical implications of our point of view.  We conclude by suggesting that outdoor educators are well-suited to lead the proposed linguistic, metaphorical, and pedagogical shifts towards better encompass humankind‘s relationships in the natural world.  In so doing, we hope to encourage dialogue about the unique opportunities outdoor educators have to shape an ecologically literate citizenry prepared to make environmentally responsible choices in all dimensions of their lives.
Full PDF:  CachelinEtAl2011
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