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Finding Heart: Generating and Maintaining Hope and Agency through Sustainability Education

By Tina Evans

Abstract: In his landmark book Native Science (2000), indigenous educator Gregory Cajete eloquently articulates the motivations and questions that drive this study. For Cajete, effective education of our time entails “finding heart.” Finding heart is an active process within and beyond the person. It is evident in ethically and spiritually grounded work and being that embody meaningful connection to and care for others and nature (p. 288). This article relates to the process of finding heart through sustainability education. It presents a grounded-theory-based study of aspects of sustainability education that motivate or detract from activating hope and agency among undergraduate college students. Specific aspects of conceptual and social engagement, as well as the duration of these effects, are examined in some depth, with the voices of students themselves reflecting the diversity, depth, and power of their experience. The author concludes by suggesting that generating hope and agency among students is a vitally important outcome for sustainability education as part of the larger movement for sustainability. She also suggests curriculum design considerations for effectively activating hope and agency among students.

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Learning and behavior change in a Girl Scout program focused on energy conservation: Saving energy to ‘save the planet’

By Gillian Puttick, Kim Kies, Cecilia Garibay and Debra Bernstein

This study presents outcomes from the Girls Energy Conservation Corps, a research and development project that produced a series of six patch activity guides for girls age 8-14 who are members of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts. The program focused on integrating engaging online and real world activities that involved girls in learning about climate change and their role in it, in saving energy, understanding the importance of collective goals and action to address climate change, and using new media creatively to educate peers and the community about energy conservation. Positive changes in knowledge, behavior, and attitudes pre to post suggest that a carefully designed program can address the challenges of educating children about energy conservation and climate change at this age, even if participant exposure to the program is brief. Findings also bring to light that developmental differences may be important to deconstruct in future studies when applying adult-tested behavior change models and theories to youth.

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