Recent Question/Assignment

Critically reflect upon the possibilities, benefits and/or limits of taking a local or place-based approach to global environmental sustainability education in your educational context. How might you go about doing this?
Make sure you critically engage with one or two of the ethical, social or political implications of environmental sustainability discussed in Lecture 1 and in one of the set readings and explain how it/they is/are relevant to your own educational context.
Word limit_400 (20% + be considered)
Due date_ 30 April 2016
(SAMPLE Answer 1)
Sustainable education needs to be initially defined to enable a proper approach for educators to pursue an approach to teaching methods that emphasis the desired outcome. In the lecture there was the notion that we think of sustainable education as either we are part of it through climate changes and an interconnection with nature or that we as humans have created it and are disconnected from the environment. Taking a western view of it I think that it is a combination of both but for the integration of place based approaches, it is useful to analyses it in the context of human exceptionalism.
Reading the article by Somerville in using local wetlands in educating the children of the local primary school in Morwell, outlined the possibilities of knowledge expansion for students and educators when using space and place in education. I think the concepts of ‘becoming’s and ‘assemblages’ (Somerville, 2008, pg. 5) is particularly interesting method looking at the how we form connections and transform based on our interactions with other beings and the surroundings rather than the ‘discontinuous alignments of linkages brought together in conjunctions (Grosz, 1994, 167-stated in Somerville, 2008, pg. 5).
There are many benefits to using place based approaches in the educational context as it looks at approaches to use local resources to solve local environmental issues. As outlined in the lecture the idea of place pedagogies is method to learning from local organic surroundings rather than of the traditional artificial learning environments that we have become accustomed to.
In my tertiary education I have been able to study agricultural forestry which entailed looking at methods used in developing countries to created sustainable farming. This was combined with attending local excursions to self-sustained organic gardens which were maintained by the local community. This method of place based education allowed comparisons to be made on the methods that used by countries that we see as lower down in the ‘historical queue’, as stated in the lecture, and how these methods are actually utilised to solve local environmental issues in my backyard. This method of engaging students through information sharing on global environmental sustainability methods and applying them to a local context is beneficial. The wetlands project discussed by Somerville saw a sense of local community involvement not only through the educators and students but also families, which is not the methods generally used in metropolitan schooling curriculums. There was also the inclusion of global perspectives in that the primary school in morel also interacted with their USA counterpart, further forming the connections that we have on a global scale. The notion that the pedagogy of place is about knowing place in all intimate detail as a place of inhabitation, a place we dwell with creatures (Somerville 2008, pg. 8) is relatable to the Australian Indigenous concept of culture and country being intertwined and can be useful to be embodied in teaching sustainable education.

1. M. Somerville (2008), Becoming a frog: a primary school place pedagogy, The Australian Association for Research in Education, Monash University.

(Sample Answer 2)
As a future science teacher, teaching environmental sustainability seems obvious. In the eight years since leaving school, I have noticed an increase in place-based learning, involving school science assignments on local lake and wetland water quality or soil salinity in national parks. Place pedagogy facilitates meaningful and relevant learning experiences. When environmental sustainability is only taught at the global scale, I believe students switch off, “Climate change is too complicated. My actions don’t matter.” But a local focus empowers students and highlights that their actions have direct consequences. It gives them ownership of there local environments and can encourage them to build connections with the land (Green, 2007). Importantly, a place-based approach can involve the whole community to promote the formation of cross generation, or cultural relationships that may not form in classroom learning. Capra (2010) states that “to sustain life, we have to have a sustainable community,” and I believe that food gardens (Green, 2007) are an excellent entry point to ecological literacy.
My local primary school (Majura) has a food garden. Prior to this unit, I was sceptical of it’s befits, I thought that the time spent digging in dirt would be spent learning literacy and numeracy. I had the opinion that content-based learning was more important, and this was wrong. Getting parents to overcome this belief would be a key challenge in order to sell the idea of food garden-based learning.
I believe that food gardens and outdoor learning have the power to reengage disengaged students. Taking students, especially boys, out of the classroom and providing them adventure, responsibility and challenge, improves academic results (Malone, 2010). Food gardens can be used to teach science (Capra, 2010), harvested food can be cooked in hospitality to make healthy food which can then be used in a canteen for lunch, literacy can be taught through researching plants and habitats, numeracy can be incorporated though testing of soils and water, culture can be examined by looking at different crops and harvesting techniques (Green, 2007). I believe that many key learning areas can be incorporated into sustainability education, with a place-based approach connecting students to global ‘wicked’ problems through local actions.
I find it ironic that the UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (UNESCO, n.d.) should occur simultaneously with the rise of neoliberalism. While one is working to draw the community together, to encourage collaboration and equality, the other works divide society and favour the economy. I often wonder if neoliberal supporters realise that a vast array of interconnecting networks operate in society. “Life did not take over the planet by combatting, but rather by networking,” (Capra, 2010). While used to discuss, ecological networks and biological evolution, I believe this quote also acts as direct counterargument to neoliberalism. We can’t have an economy-based society driven by power and greed; our planet doesn’t work like that, and if humans want to continue living here then something needs to change. Education is about educating the youth of today so they can face tomorrows challenges, and environmental sustainability is going to be that challenge. Future politicians, CEOs, educators, scientists and architects need to be ecological literate, so they conduct their activities in an environmentally ethical way. After all, there is economy on a dead planet.

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