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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Where did you go? Out.
June 13, 2010 - 8:57pm

As I try to get my mind around the concept of place-based pedagogy (or even place-aware pedagogy), a range of thoughts and associations crosses my radar screen.

First off, there was a story on NPR NOW this afternoon, during the course of which "naturism" (as opposed to, if externally indistinguishable from, nudism) was defined as " A way of life in harmony with nature, characterized by the practice of communal nudity with the intent of encouraging self respect, respect for other and the environment." With the exception of the communal nudity part (Greenback not being Antioch, Oberlin, or even UMich), it sounds pretty much like what I'd want any pedagogy to achieve -- in addition to mastery of the declared subject matter, of course.

Then there's the Student Training for Environmental Protection (STEP) program being run by George Mason University at the nearby Prince William Forest (a site with an interesting history as well as a rustic ambiance). The idea of getting potential student sustainability leaders together -- not just for some team-building and knowledge dissemination, but for a shared experience in a naturalistic environment (note the "istic" on that one) -- seems potentially powerful and definitely place-based.

And finally, I came across a used book titled "The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places." Immediately after the copyright page, it starts with three quotes. The second one (from Robert Paul Smith, 1957) goes:

. . . that was the main thing about kids then: we spend an awful lot of time doing nothing . . . All of us, for a long time, spent a long time picking wildflowers. Catching tadpoles. Looking for arrowheads. Getting our feet wet. Playing with mud. And sand. And water. You understand, not doing anything. What there was to do with sand was to let it run through your fingers. What there was to do with mud was to pat it, thrust in it, lift it up and throw it down. . . . My world, as a kid, was full of things that grownups didn't care about."

To my mind, whatever a pedagogy of place is, that's what I want it to do. If Greenback can find a way to create in its typical 21st century undergrad the kind of hands-on (or hands-in) involvement with the natural (or even naturalistic) world that six-year-olds could experience sometime before 1957, I'll be able to die happy. I might even feel that I had won some victory for humanity. And the world.


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