Thursday, February 10, 2011

TUTORED BY NATURE: Eco-Stewardship Excursions

Educational theory and teacher practice linked to development of Ecological Literacy leads to three important premises that direct Tutored by Nature Inc. excursions:
1. Ecoliteracy - "all education is environmental education...what is included or excluded...students learn that they are part of or apart from the natural world" (David Orr) - effective ecoliteracy happens outdoors where children participate - personally interact in Nature's classroom and through ecological stewardship experience.
2. Children in Middle Childhood stage of perceptual development (approx.6 - 12 yrs) need to experience Nature's relationship lessons through participation - extending their participatory consciousness.
3. Nature requires complete personal attention in Her natural classroom. She will then provide for the "sheer sensory experience" - meaningfully and in a lasting & connecting way. So, as Henry David Thoreau once said..."What business have I in the woods if I am thinking of something outside of the woods." (H.D. Thoreau, Walking, 1862, p.5) - a great lesson to learn through experience.
4. "Nothing lives unto itself" (Rachel Carson).

Meet and greet: Tutored by Nature Inc meets the class locally outdoors (within school walking distance) - onsite for purposes developing community, comfort, safety, continuity and to connect to the 'awe'.
Focus: Continuing with the local connection - the sheer sensory experience that awaits children in this local urban wilderness is prepped through a focus activity - an ecology game, initiative task, and/or physical sensing activity.
Direct Experience Activity - Time for the personal connections... students personally observe and record their interactions with the local watershed/subwatershed natural community - opportunity to discover the self in relationship; to sense the local ecosystem's healthiness and ecological interactions, to assess their personal impact/footprint, etc. Activity includes 'sauntering', 'tracking', 'solo-ing in the open blind' (silent observation techique within an urban wilderness space), Caring by participating in a watershed stewardship event - that will in some way support local habitats, and also to 'Sketch, Paint & Shoot’ (pencil sketch, water-colour sketch and photography) - a great way to get very close to nature, take her in and create self impressions.
Circle: Students meet to debrief in a 'Euro-Centric' traditional aboriginal circle for purpose of sharing direct experience expressively (oral and written). Circle will link their experience to the class's  developing a group theme or identifying and solving a local ecological problem (e.g., mystery, ecological footprint, ecological stewardship, climate change, riparian/water-course health, local biodiversity and relationships, etc.)
Materials - the Young Naturalist's Log Book, a blindfold, a camera, writing/sketch materials, water-colout kit, binoculars, magnifying lenses, and/or compass. Stewardship equipment and materials are supplied by established partnerships (CVC, City of Mississuaga, Tutored by Nature Inc, EcoSparks, etc.)

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