Digital Story Meta-Reflection

Audrey,

I would like to thank you for the opportunities and the new learnings you have provided me with over the last few months. I have really grown as a teacher and as a learner. I look forward to continuing to challenge myself and ask critical questions throughout all my learning experiences and to look for other ways of knowing. I am far from complete understanding of environmental education and ecoliteracy but I look forward to the struggles, opportunities, and relearnings over my teaching and learning career.

Justine

Here is my video, Unlearning and Relearning Thus Far.

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Creative Journal #6

Unlearning and Relearning How to Educate

I have been struggling, and I still am struggling with this idea of multidisciplinary learning, inquiry learning, student led learning, and so on. All these new concepts of teaching to allow for creativity and for children to find and create their own learning and knowing of the world. I guess you could say I am stuck in the old fashion way of teaching and learning and I have always pictured myself as that type of teacher. A teacher who stands at the front of the room and teaches math, then science and assesses my students based on their knowledge. Just like how I was taught and how my parents and their parents, maybe I have an old soul but I believe there is nothing wrong with this system. Therefore it has been incredibly difficult for me to unlearn this over the last four months, and I believe it will take even longer than that to completely unlearn it.

I found Ho’s statement, “one of the dangers of formal schooling is it will imprint a disciplinary template onto impressionable minds and with it the belief that the world really is as disconnected as the divisions, disciplines, and subdisciplines of the typical curriculum” (p 3) very troubling because of this idea I have about teaching. Yet, it also helped with my relearning of these new methods of teaching and how others are viewing the troubles of the “old way of teaching”. I have been relearning that school subjects are somewhat placing children into boxes of knowing and viewing the world. Their grades in subject areas influence their future careers and keep their minds closed to opportunity in knowing the world as more of a whole, of interconnectedness. This relearning is going to be a process, but the more I sit down and think about it and the more I have been practicing it throughout this class, the more benefits I can see coming out of these methods and ways of knowing and learning.

I am working to unlearn how to teach and learn in a class room setting and relearning how to better benefit my future students so I can set them up for success in our ever changing world. I understand, and Ho made it very clear, that this type of learning allows children the freedom to create their own identity through their own creative ways of understanding and learning about the environment and the world in general. I look forward to continuing this unlearning and relearning journey Audrey has challenged me to take.

Creative Journal #5

Now Who Am I as an Educator and What Does it Mean to Educate?

I have grown up in a poststructuralism school setting where my teachers teach and expect a regurgitation through examination and assessment from their students. I learned that math is math, science is science, social is social, and so on and I have always pictured myself teaching in these same ways. I have always identified teacher as someone who teaches subjects and life lessons to their students, who stands in front of a classroom and shows a sense of superiority over the younger people in the classroom. I have been “[trapped] in “conventional meanings and modes of being” (Barrett 2005), but it is time to break this way of being. It is time to challenge my ways of being and understanding education, to disrupt discourses. The question is how? How do I change my view? How do I expect my students to be comfortable when I am uncomfortable with this “new to me” concept of teaching? Where do I begin?

I suppose some of these questions will take time and practice, they will take a conscious effort while teaching and lesson planning, I need to be challenging myself to allow my students (and myself) to break discourses. I have grown up believing, through adult influence that I am “coming from an independent consciousness or core, essential self, notions of who one is and what a person is supposed to be and do are socially constructed” (Barrett 2005) and I want my future students to create their very own identity and for myself to find my own identity that is not set by society or by mainstream beliefs and expectations.

My first steps in the right direction came from lesson planning for Morgan’s grade one class at Ruth Pawson Elementary. My group tried hard to incorporate a multidisciplinary lesson that did not just focus on math, science, health, or indigenous studies, but rather we incorporated all aspects into our lesson without making a point to subjectize them for the students. We also tried to disrupt discourses by allowing the students to think, explore, and explain their choices around what a teepee ring can be made of. We gave them the opportunity to discover possible solutions for themselves. I think that this activity was very simple, but demonstrated how children can be given the opportunity to create their own learning and solutions. Can I allow this freedom all the time in the classroom? Is there always going to be a “right and wrong” in learning? How do I avoid giving them what I believe is the “correct” answer? Am I supposed to avoid this?

Feminist postsructural research “allows for different ways of knowing, includes the body as a site of knowledge, and questions the researcher as one who might ever know” (Barrett 2005) this is a completely uncomfortable thought for me. Possibly never knowing the answer, constantly questioning yourself and your ways of knowing; this is not something I will adopt with ease. I have always been focused on grades, on the “right” answer, on memorizing course content as knowledge. Is this wrong? I do not think so, but I do think that a feminist poststructural approach could be rewarding and could help gain a lot of new self-identity and expand learning and ways of knowing.

So I am left after reading this article wondering, have I been taught wrong all this time? Could I have grown up with a more in depth self-identity? Would I or a future students become more confused with themselves by using these ways of knowing and learning? Would it perhaps benefit them? Is not having the “right” answer OK? These questions make me uncomfortable and full of tension. They make me slightly scared for future lesson planning and teaching. Disrupting discourses and feminist poststructural research has brought me to a place where I am now questioning my own identity, my own beliefs about teaching and learning, and what I thought I knew about environmental education.2016-11-22-1

Meta Reflection- In the Middle of Things

How Far I Have Come, Where I am, Where I Am Going

I had no idea what it meant to be eco-literate, I did not know what environmental education/ learning is, and I honestly still do not think I truly know what these things are or what they mean. But what I do know is that I am beginning to understand, I am beginning to create an eco-identity for myself, and I do not ever want to stop building my understandings and my identities.

A common theme that I had found in my blog posts was that of developing and building my understanding of environmental education/learning, eco-literacy and eco-identity. My first blog post, Strength of Trees, shared my first ideas of what environmental education is and it included only the typical trees, water, and dirt type of answer. I tried to relate the trees to myself, in a way to identify with my vague definition of nature, I said, “they [trees] taught me that with proper care and nurturing, and by sinking your roots in deep, you will be strong and you will stand tall with confidence.” I believed that somehow the trees were much like myself, and I still do. And I still do believe trees and the earth are parts of environmental education. But, I began to expand this understanding farther in my Letter to Emily that explained what I thought it meant to be eco-literate. I believe it to include recycling a lot, decreasing fuel consumption, reusing materials, and being energy efficient. But I now believe it is more than that too.I developed a deeper understanding and added to my definitions with the help of Shyla and Vanessa in my Eco-Literacy Braid, I added composting and grass/ land preservation and how to sustain the environment and its importance. While I thought I was being thoughtful all this time, I later realized I missed a huge factor to what it means to understand the environment, the base of how identities are shaped, and the foundation of environmental learning. The history; all the people who live here and have lived here before us and their actions, including the Indigenous people, who I so rudely overlooked.

It was not until Treaty Ed Camp and my second creative journal, Wilderness Beyond our Senses, that I realized how important it is to try to understand the way of life on the land before us, the history. I am now realizing it is important to further just “knowing the history” but asking, how did they treat the environment? How did they shape the land we use and occupy now? My third creative journal, Prairies with Millions of Stories, was the same idea, knowing the stories or the history of the land and how that is important. But I failed to question it further, to question what that meant to me? Or how that affected the land? Or if the land really then belongs to my family?

I touched on my identity in my third creative journal as well, I stated, “all of it [our family ranch] makes me feel part of the wilderness, part of something bigger than just my identity as a student and a girl, and a farm kid”, but I never once expanded on what this meant, or questioned what kind of identity our ranch created for me. I failed to relate and question how all these other people’s stories of our ranch has shaped my identity. How it has affected my story, or why it is important. I never questioned my part in sustaining the beauty there.

So, what have I been silencing in my posts? What have I been ignoring to include in my understanding and my development of my eco-identity? I believe I have been failing to address and accept that there are more ways of knowing than the Euro-Canadian and Western-European ways and learning about environmental education. I have been having a hard time accepting the new way of learning my teacher, Audrey, has been trying to show us and has challenged me to open up to. Am I comfortable with it? No. Do I want to try to learn this way more? I am not sure. Do I think it helps people create their own definitions and identities about the environment? Yes, maybe? Moving forward with my understanding and my identity about environmental education/ learning I hope to try to be more open minded and to try hard to complicate things more by asking questions about the “whys?”, “hows?”, and the “what could this means?”. I want to challenge whether I need a definite answer or if leaving it complicated and open ended is OK. I appreciate the push to question what the environment is and how it is. But am I willing to change my thought processes and my demand for definite answers? Maybe, but it will not be easy, thanks to Collin and his reminder, “that that [to make wrong choices] is OK. That struggles are inevitable.” I feel confident moving forward that I can try to stop this silenced way of knowing and learning about environment, in order to expand my thoughts and definitions further in the future.

Creative Journal #4

Struggles are Inevitable in Nature and Action

I thoroughly enjoyed our class’ Skype visit with Collin Harris. He took action learning projects to a huge level by creating a non-profit campaign to encourage children to go outside instead of using so much screen time. He ran from coast to coast in nine months and stopped to talk to schools about his goals and the importance of being outdoors for everyone, especially children who spend too much time inside with technology.  He finished his run on October 26, therefore he chose that day to become “Take Me Outside Day” where schools allow their students and staff an hour outdoors. His impact and his story are incredible and extremely inspirational to me; how one person chose to set his whole life aside for this passion of his.

Collin shared his struggles with us, and he faced some big ones. Financial struggle played a huge role and is still impacting him five years later, but he still believes he did the right thing. He told us that he struggles every day in his other environmental goals and he reminded us we will too. Collin reminded us that every day we will be making choices based on our world views that are going to be difficult and that we will sometimes make the “wrong” or less environmentally friendly decisions. But he also reminded us that that is OK. That struggles are inevitable.

He really opened up my eyes and made environmental education and environmental goals more realistic for me. I feel more confident in pursuing my AL project and of embodying it. I feel like making decisions around my consumption of hormone and antibiotic free beef is going to be a journey. A journey of struggles of reminding myself to be conscious and to question the beef products I am consuming. I feel better knowing I will not, and I am not, the only one who will face struggles while trying to achieve my environmental goals.

One more thing that Collin said that really inspired me was that he sees his AL project as a gesture, “a small gesture that can have a huge impact”. He described it in reference to friendship and if your friend is having a bad day and you call them to give them some positivity, this may seem like a small gesture, but it will have a big impact on your friend. That is also how he described “Take Me Outside Day” it is one day, but it is meant as a collective gesture in hopes that people choose to do it more often. He is pushing to create awareness that our youth need more time outside and that learning can be done beyond the classroom. This inspired me and even helped me realize that my project may be focused on my personal goal, and my group’s personal goals, but we could eventually have an impact on our class when we share our AL project. And I have full confidence that I will be sharing my knowledge with my peers and family. So, I too could begin as a small gesture that grows. Probably not nationwide like Collin, but you just never know.

Overall, I am very grateful for Collin’s story. I hope to answer his question someday, “what story are you telling and living to shape your world?” I want to create a story that has meaning to myself, which represents how much I love our environment and shows my dedication to helping sustain natural environments for years to come. I look forward to the struggles that help shape myself and my environmental education journey.

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Creative Journal #3

Prairies with Millions of Stories

Growing up and even today my favourite place on this earth remains the same. The feeling of freedom, belonging, and being one with nature all play a huge role as to why I love it so dearly. Since I was just a kid my Dad would bring my brothers and myself up here to check fences, check the cows, inspect the river’s water levels, and to just be part of the environment for a few hours.

The grass is native to the land and does it ever grow, such beautiful shades of yellows, greens, and browns. The cattle graze freely within the 17 quarters that has been declared ours for 28 years, and probably cattle of many other settlers before us. But still, even today, there are remnants of Indigenous life living on our land. We have never moved a single thing, not an arrow head nor a teepee ring. Dad taught us what arrow heads and teepee rings are and how important it is to leave the Indigenous people’s belongings to the land. I always found this fascinating and very respectful of my Dad.

My brothers and I, from a young age, have always found so much comfort, joy, and freedom in riding our horses all across this land. From racing them up and down the coolies in the beautiful fall colours to slowly walking across the flat tops breathing in the fresh smell of sage in the spring. All of it makes me feel part of the wilderness, part of something bigger than just my identity as a student and a girl, and a farm kid.

The Garrett Ranch, our family ranch, holds millions of different stories for hundreds of different people ancient, old, young, and everyone in between. I will never be more thankful for any piece of land than this one, it holds too many memories, too many stories for me to ever let it go. I hope to continue making memories there and I hope to never lose that feeling of being part of something greater. Most of all, I hope to continue learning about the history of our ranch because I now realize how important that really is to the way the wilderness was ultimately shaped.

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Creative Journal #2

Wilderness Beyond Our Senses 

On a beautiful spring day my middle school class was given the opportunity to take a trip to Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills. The buildings and the people looked authentic and the atmosphere felt like we were taken back to the many years ago that the Fort was still occupied. This trip was not just a history lesson about the Cypress Hills land, the Aboriginal peoples who lived there and the settlers who invaded. Walking through the Fort was almost like reliving reality, it was learning about the land and recognizing the thousands of Aboriginal peoples who died trying to protect their Creator’s land from settlers. It was incredibly surreal, even for me as a middle school student.

I feel like that fieldtrip was not a typical canoe pedagogy, because we were given the opportunity to discuss and learn about the land and the peoples who had lived there. Newberry states, “I believe that much canoe pedagogy similarly paints scenic and inspiring pictures for students.” (p 42). And I believe that we did not just simply stare at the scenery, feel the crisp water, and breathe in the clean air, rather we became more connected and educated about the land around us that day. Newberry also talks about how outdoor education needs to become more complex and that we should talk about ethnicity and I believe that my teacher and the people at Fort Walsh accomplished this that day. It would be a field trip I would love to take my students on someday.

During the Treaty Ed Camp we attended I had the pleasure of listening to Elder Starblanket. I listened as he passionately discussed Fort Qu’Appelle and the history of his people there. He discussed some other historical events too which have hindered his people. I found this fascinating and felt the lecture on a whole new level, hearing it from someone who has lived it and felt it himself. The girl helping with this station discussed after, an event in Fort Qu’Appelle that is a truly engaging learning experience for people of all ages. She highly recommended school trips to Fort Qu’Appelle, especially at this time to truly learn the complexity of Treaty 4 and the peoples before settlers came. I thought that between her and Elder Starblanket they are really pushing towards Newberry’s belief that EE and Outdoor Ed need to become more complex and need to open wounds and the hard truth about what has been done to make our environment how it is today.

Canadian wilderness now has a more complex and diverse meaning to me than just animals, trees and dirt. Our wilderness needs to be discussed in more depth, we need to start thinking critically about why the land we are on is what it is. We need to talk about how we have shaped the wilderness, how we have influenced it compared to people many years before us. I think like Newberry, Elder Starblanket, the other guest speaker, and even the people at Fort Walsh have done an excellent job bringing forward these complexities and deeper thoughts about wilderness and the land we live on. I hope in the future I can open the same doors for my students and that they will begin to see the wilderness as more than just flowers, grass, rivers, and animals. But rather they will talk about why and how the wilderness has been shaped.

vanessa

A Never Ending Eco-Literacy Braid

To be an eco-literate person can mean many different things. My eco-literacy story begins with a love letter to my dear friend Emily who is my inspiration and my definition of what it means to be an eco-literate person. She makes it look like magic, the way she takes used materials and creates her own brand new creations. She precisely sorts her recycled materials and never leaves a glass, plastic, cardboard, or paper behind when doing so. Her home is always so green with her conservation of electricity and water. And the air she breathes is incredibly clean in the way she saves on fuel and throws her garbage in waste cans. She, in my eyes, is an eco-literate goddess.

But a few days later Shyla read me a poem about the cattle ranchers who preserve the grasslands and care for their livestock. She opened my eyes to the obvious ways that my family and I (as well as many other ranchers) are eco-literate through a very beautiful poem. The ranchers she spoke of “earn a living off the land by studying, and respecting, and loving, the environments” they have created a living out of their eco-literacy. Something I never considered in my own definition, but dearly admire and ultimately can relate to being a cattle ranchers daughter. She discussed how working in, and with, the weather and knowing the water tables can help save animal’s lives. Another strand to add to my eco-literacy definition.

I was feeling great about this new definition of eco-literacy that I had created. And the next day Vanessa reinforced my good feelings through her letter that defined what the term meant to her. She agreed that recycling was a great way to help the environment. But she made me feel silly when she went on to talk about the importance of planting trees every year. And then she included “the benefits [composting] has to the environment” another way to make use of our waste to make the earth healthier! My mind is overwhelmed and very happy with the definition of eco-literacy that it has compiled thus far.

In just a short few days I managed to braid together these strands of ideas to create a strong definition of what it means to be an eco-literate person. But then I remembered what Kimmerer wrote in her story. “Our relationships with the land, we are given so much and what we might give back” (122), she makes me question if I have truly found a set definition. What else can I, as one individual, give back to my environment to make it happier and healthier? Vanessa had shared in her letter, “spread your knowledge with as many people as possible… of the small things… to change the environment” and I must agree that all these small tasks we do make a big impact. And if thousands of people do them it would be better than just a handful of people doing them. But is it enough? I hope to continue my eco-literacy braid as I grow older, to lengthen and strengthen it. As for the answer to my questions, I hope they can be answered someday.

Sources (not in links)

Wall Kimmerer, R. (2013). Epiphany in the Beans. In Braiding Sweetgrass (pp. 121-127).                  Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.

 

Ecoliteracy Love Letter

Dear Emily,

What you do for the environment is inspiring. So, let me thank you. I thank you for recycling: aluminum cans, bottles (glass and plastic), tin cans, cardboard (including pizza boxes, toilet paper tubes and everything in between), and paper. I thank you for helping me to begin to recycle properly too.

But you don’t just recycle, you are extremely crafty and find many ways to reuse recycled materials. You’re good at creating new things out of “used”/ “old” materials, like picture frames, utensil jars, and so on. You are also great at buying and selling second hand items instead of throwing things away. So, thank you for being creative.

I also thank you for always trying your best to save on fuel consumption. You try to walk, carpool, or take public transit as often as you can. And I thank you for helping and encouraging me to do the same! But, it doesn’t just stop there you always take the time to unplug appliances that are not in use. You remember to shut the tap off while brushing your teeth and you refuse to throw your garbage out your car window.

These are just a few things I thank you for and I know the environment thanks you for more than even I do. I believe you are an eco-literate person because you are helping the environment in any way you can. And on top of that, you sometimes even take the time to educate yourself on environmental issues that are affecting us locally. Way to go!

I appreciate all you have taught me in helping keep our environment clean, I just wish more people could learn these things too. I will keep informing people of all these small tasks that can help the environment be greener and I know you will as well.

Have a great day and keep being green!

Love,

Justine Garrett

 

Creative Journal #1

Strength of Trees

It was hot, temperatures above average for a day in May. I started the garden tractor anyhow and connected the rototiller. My Step Dad had marked out the exact surface area of grass that he wanted torn up, so I headed that direction. When I engaged the rototiller over the lush bright green grass a little piece of me felt sad I was about destroy such a beautiful site. I continued in the straightest line I could possible eye out, until the next stake where I lifted the rototiller and turned around. The dirt behind me was a lumpy mixture of roots, grass, and fresh soil. The smell was fresh and crisp. I continued making two more passes with the rototiller tearing up the staked area. When I was finished I parked the tractor and set out to find what I needed next.

Carrying my shovel, while pulling the water hose I made my way over to where I mixed the soil and fertilizer. I could not help but notice how tiny the trees seemed while they sat there waiting to be planted. How would they ever survive the prairie winds? I dug twelve holes into the earth about two and a half feet apart, ensuring room for growth. I carefully placed all twelve tiny poplars in the holes I had dug. The ground was moist and the soil soft, as I filled in each hole hoping the trees would live and prosper in their new home. I then generously gave them their first good drink of water and left them for a couple days.

Over the next few months I watched as my tiny poplar trees became to grow towards the sun, they became perkier, their leaves got bigger and greener. And now I somehow knew they were stronger than anything I have ever seen. These tiny trees survived wind storm after wind storm, treacherous heavy rain falls. And maybe survived is an understatement as I believe they have been prospering; they are so incredibly beautiful. They taught me that with proper care and nurturing, and by sinking your roots in deep, you will be strong and you will stand tall with confidence. I believe these trees have helped me to become a stronger, more positive person. Just from watching them grow from tiny, weak individuals into bright, beautiful, mighty trees.

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My entry, and how I feel connected to the environment was very similar to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s story in the chapter “Epiphany in the Beans” in Braiding Sweetgrass. Her garden taught her about happiness and love, my trees taught me how change and growth builds strength. So to me the environment is a means of learning life lessons and being interconnected with the earth, plants, animals, and even man made structures.