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Postcard from the Ballona Creek Watershed

By Nicole Lawson

This postcard is inspired by my dissertation research at the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area and Ballona Wetlands in Los Angeles. I spent many months observing student tours and frequently was struck by many of the reactions and observations I mentioned in my postcard.

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Critical Sustainability: Promoting Pedagogies of Placefulness in Outdoor Education

By Jeff Rose and Adrienne Cachelin

The socioecological challenges we face have never been so complex, so intractable, and so urgent. And while both justice-oriented education and education for sustainability are growing in colleges and universities across the United States, normative perspectives of outdoor experiential education have fallen embarrassingly behind. In this paper, we offer critical sustainability as a conceptual basis for engaging students in the beauty, perversity, and complexity of our world. Critical sustainability, integrating sociopolitical systems of privilege and oppression with the socioecological imperatives of global health and justice, provides an exciting and promising pedagogical direction. With this conceptual framework, we explore perspectives of “nature,” placefulness, and our multiple, overlapping subjectivities as students, educators, and engaged citizens. Our task as outdoor educators is to bring the faraway nearby and inspire students to engage in the myriad challenges we face as individuals, citizens, and as members of a global ecological community. We conclude by offering place mapping as a pedagogical technique to support elements of critical sustainability in outdoor education settings and beyond.

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Experiencing Sustainability: Thinking Deeper About Experiential Education in Higher Education

By Jay Roberts

Jack Turner (2005) once wrote “we treat the natural world according to our experience of it.” How are our students “experiencing sustainability” in U.S. colleges and universities? With the rise in popularity of education for sustainability initiatives in both K-12 and higher education, experiential education has been championed as a key pedagogical approach moving forward. Experiential curriculum projects come in many different forms. From outdoor education and service learning to so-called “hands-on” applied work on campus projects and field science research, students are increasingly “learning by doing.” Yet far from just another methodology to be used in the classroom, the rise of experiential approaches indicates deeper tectonic shifts in higher education. As students and faculty engage in this form of learning, questions are raised as to the historic divide between theory and practice, the separation between so-called “town” and “gown” cultures, the curriculum and the co-curriculum, and what forms of knowledge and skills are of the most worth to a 21st century graduate. This analysis first briefly surveys the theoretical history of experiential education before proceeding to consider two specific curriculum projects at the intersections between sustainability and experiential education—place-based learning and project-based learning. The analysis concludes with a discussion of the possibilities and limitations of current forms of experiential education in higher education and a consideration of future trends and developments.

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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 […]

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