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EDF1125 Sustainable futures

Assignment 1
by

Stephanie Ly

on 4 October 2011

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Transcript of EDF1125 Sustainable futures

Brainstorm Results Research My Project Notes Important
Details Detail early memories of your past learning experiences in the natural environment (nature) The lot was very small compared to a full sized park with a playground. It was so small that it only housed a single play set and an egg-shaped spinner. My three younger cousins and I used to play here almost every weekend. What we thought was as amazing as a jungle was simply a neglected park. I now realise that the grass was only so tall and wavy because nobody cared enough to look after it. When I was in primary school and my grandparents lived at their old house, there was a tiny, little playground on land that probably should have had a house on it. I say this because it shared its rickety wooden fences with a milk bar and two other houses. The inner wall of the spinner was filled with graffiti, but it was secret artwork to us. We were too young to read, fortunately, since I now know the type of language that most graffiti consists of! What I remember most is the grass, long and green. We used to love running around in the tall growth, feeling it brush against us and imagining we were in jungles or forests all over the world. Also, as our family isn't one that particularly loves animals, I remember really clearly the time we went into the mountains for a barbeque, and were allowed to feed the birds. I was only in primary school and I remember the trees being so tall, thinking that they'd reach the sky. We put our hands into the giant bags of seeds and held them out, waiting for the birds to come to us. They were big and colourful and would land gently on our arms. Although I am now terrified of animals, I remember the excitement I felt while feeding these beautiful creatures. Although my family is not particularly outdoorsy, most of my memories of being in nature are from home; My mother is more scared of animals than I, which is probably the source of my own fears; As I got older, I began to spend more and more time inside. I now relate nature to special occasions or outings, and spend most of my time indoors. Before asking our students about their experiences in nature, we thought it would be a good idea to first find out what they thought nature was. When approached with this question, we received many answers, most of which were what we expected.
“The plants… the grass.” (Callum)
“It’s the environment, where animals live.” (Jess)

However, Ellie surprised us by saying, “I don’t know. I don’t go to forests.” “What is nature?” Since Ellie believed she did not know what nature was, however included forests in her answer, we asked the students what their favorite memory of being in nature was.
“Going camping… lots of trees near there. I don’t know the name of the place. It was in a caravan park.” (Yamin)

While a few of the students provided us with responses of being outside, Ellie was still having trouble with the concept.
“I don’t know what nature is.” (Ellie)

Therefore, we asked them, “what do you do on the weekend?” This provided us with a decisive answer from Ellie, who said she likes to “stay inside and play, or watch TV”. What is your favorite memory of being in nature? It was astounding to discover that the majority of our students were really lacking experiences in the outdoors. Most of them had only ever been to the beach once, while Jess had never been at all.

“I’ve never been to the beach.” (Jess)
“I’ve only been to the beach once.” (Ellie)
“I just like going to the wave pool.” (Lorenzo)

As Lorenzo's response had shown us that he liked going to the indoor equivalent as opposed to the natural outdoors, we asked if they liked playing outside at all. Gabby gave us contradicting answers, which illustrated that her opportunities to play outside were perhaps very scarce, as she initially forgot about them. She first answered, “I always stay inside because it’s really cold”, but added, “I like to play outside when it’s summer”. This lead me to believe that going outside was almost an afterthought, an activity that is infrequent rather than a regular pastime. “Do you ever go to the beach?” Given the choice between playing inside or outside, 2/3 of the students answered with inside, which is very different to what the answers would have been when I was in grade 1.
“Outside’s not very interesting. Inside is much more fun.” (Ellie)

This view was supported by Yamin, who eagerly agreed that he preferred to stay indoors as his favourite things to play are his Wii and his computer. This is most likely the reason behind his lack of outside experiences, as he excitedly described his passion for his electronics, over and over again.

While prompting the students to talk about why they choose not to play in their backyards, Jess stated, “all I have is six old trees… but it’s not a backyard.” Prior to this, Jess expressed that she liked climbing trees, however it was a giant tree in particular that she climbs whenever her family visit their usual holiday spot. Would you prefer playing inside or outside? When asked this question, almost half of the children said the wetlands. This was fantastic to hear, since most of their answers had given us a fairly bleak view about experiences of nature in their lives.

Therefore, although some of the children had been camping or holidaying away from the city, it was hard to deduce whether or not their experiences were mostly driven by their school or their families. Where is your favourite place in the school? Stephanie Ly
22080074 Gabby's favourite place Lorenzo's wave pool What Jess thinks the beach looks like There is a vast difference between my experiences and the experiences of the children. As discussed in the brainstorm, I was always at the park as a child, playing outside whenever I could. Even though we had electronics (Nintendo consoles and PlayStations), my cousins and I preferred to play at the park or ride our bikes and rollerblades around my grandparents’ house. We spent increasingly less time outdoors as we got older, especially with technology becoming a bigger part of our lives seeing that “computer use doubled” (Louv, 2008, p. 119), and my two youngest cousins quickly became overweight and very unfit. As children, they were fit and active, and participated in many out-of-school activities such as swimming and team sports. Louv (2008) alludes that an increase in structured play, paired with a decrease of unstructured play in nature, may contribute to obesity, stating that an “over-scheduled, over-organized childhood” lacking in nature “is missing vital ingredients” (p. 117). While speaking to the children about their favourite thing to do at home, Yamin answered that his favourite activity was playing on his computer. When I was 6, not very many of my friends had computers in their homes, much less were allowed to play on them for recreational activity. This is supported by Larson & Marsh (2005), “children become competent in using these digital technologies from a very young age” (p. 70), while Sobel (1996) argues, “what’s emerging is a strange kind of schizophrenia. Children are disconnected from the world outside their doors” (p. 3). This is further witnessed, as Yamin animatedly described the goals of his most beloved video game, yet his behaviour became much less excited when we asked about his time outdoors. Moreover, Payne (2005) suggests that it is commonsense that the home lives of our students influence the way they respond to environmental education. This may explain Ellie’s apparent lack of “knowledge” and experience in nature, as she dismissively commented, “we did have trees in our front yard, but they’re changing it. They’re pulling them out”. If her parents “construct and enact […] ‘anti’ environmental behaviours” (Payne, 2005, p. 81) at home, she may be less responsive to environmental education programs and discussions at school. It is plain to see that within our group of children there were not very many hours spent playing outside, nor general experiences in nature to be shared. The dilemma that research is linking the absence of nature in the lives of our youth to problems such as obesity is not surprising. If our students spend all of their time indoors, playing video games, eating, and not spending any time at all playing in nature as they are intended to, we do not need research to tell us what is already so obvious. The dilemma in question is one that affects all teachers. The aim to eradicate these negative childhood trends should constantly be influencing our teaching practice. Children are suffering in schools as a result of teachers minimising the contact with nature they have as being a part of a student’s school day. As Louv ("Richard Louv on Education", 2010) confesses, “we were teaching those kids to take the test”. Students should be given the opportunities to bring their classrooms outdoors, having their lessons on the grass instead of on carpet. If the topic is mini-beasts, why should we merely show pictures of creatures instead of taking our students out into the gardens to see the real thing? Literature suggests that when students make “connections between the classroom and real-life issues, learning is consolidated and reinforced with meaning that is relevant to the learner” (McMullen & Fletcher, 2009, p. 226). I believe that any chance to learn with hands-on experience and exploration of nature is one that should be taken advantage of. The National Curriculum provides many opportunities for teachers to integrate across the curriculum. We, as teachers, should encourage one another to incorporate nature into our daily lessons, while empowering our students to share their prior knowledge with their peers (Gruenewald, 2003). Providing students with the opportunities to be outdoors is a fun and effective way to carry out lessons, while decreasing the absence of nature in their lives. This enables teachers to cater to a range of intelligences (Snowman et al., 2009), as simply being outside and connecting to the environment in a bodily manner is addressing the needs of a kinaesthetic learner. My goal as a teacher is to empower students to aim for and achieve the best they can, and I believe that is only possible when they are developing as healthy individuals, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Allowing students the freedom to learn through their own exploration and experiences will engage them in a way that many teachers may try in vain to accomplish in a dull classroom (Green, 2008). With evidence of the detrimental effects the absence of nature has on a child, teachers have a responsibility to provide opportunities for students to connect with nature, if not for educational purposes then for the wellbeing of our children. Choopil2. (2010). Richard Louv on Education. Retrieved August 20, 2011, from http://www.youtube,com/watch?v=PY6fBRKPZKg

Green, M. (2008). Food gardens: Cultivating a pedagogy of place. Paper presented at the Australian Association for Educational Research, Fremantle, Western Australia. http://www.aare.edu.au/07pap/gre07447.pdf

Gruenewald, D. A. (2003). Foundations of place: a multidisciplinary framework for place-conscious education. American Educational Research Journal, 40(3), 619-654.

Larson, J., & Marsh, J. (2005). Literacy and new technologies. Making literacy real: theories and practices for learning and teaching (pp. 68-99). London: Sage.

Louv, R. (2008). The best of intentions: Why Johnnie and Jeannie don't play outside anymore. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder (pp. 116-153). Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

McMullen, B., & Fletcher, P. (2009). Adopting a thematic approach to education for sustainability. In M. Littledyke, N. Taylor & C. Eames (Eds.), Education for Sustainability in the Primary Curriculum: a Guide for Teachers. (pp. 226-255). South Yarra, VIC: Palgrave Macmillan.

Payne, P. (2005). Families, homes and environmental education. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 21, 81-96.

Snowman, Dobozy, Scevak, Bryer, Bartlett, & Biehler. (2009). Psychology Applied to Teaching. Milton, QLD: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.

Sobel, D. (1996). Searching for a cure. Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education (pp. 1-6). Great Barrington, MA: Orion Society.
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