Developing an Environmental Studies Magnet SchoolUsing an Ecojustice FrameworkJoss French, Ph.D.Kurt Love, Ph.D.Central Connecticut State University
BACKGROUNDRecipient of about $1.2 million from MSAP federal grantMagnet school in an urban setting serving grades PK - 8thTheme is environmental studiesStudents from city and surrounding suburban townsKurt and Joss are co-program directors, focusing onprofessional development
ECOJUSTICEFRAMEWORKEcology intersected with cultureInvestigating and critically questioning issues of sustainability,modernityExplores cultural commonsExploring root mindsetsDifference with EJ vs. EE is that it incorporates EE but alsoincludes analyses of cultural connections/influences, mindsetsSocial constructs are questioned and examined
ADDITIONALCONNECTIONSBorder crossing work Kurt is teaching a “Nature, Science, and Sustainability” course at an alternative school that is set at a sustainable farm in a neighboring town. Joss has done work on the cultural commons with elementary teachers and students, as well as at a sustainable farm with community members.
YEAR 1 - GOALSTeachers and administrators explore their visions of the larger purposes of theschoolUnlearning commonsense/taken for granted practicesExpose and explore frameworkIntegrating EE with EJGround-up not top-down, individualized to their classroom practices andpedagogiesBegin developing professional libraryMake connections between magnet themes and CT state standards for science,applied
YEAR 1 - RESOURCESEconomics of Happiness:For questioning globalization, unsustainable practices, abuses ofcorporations, exploitation of peoplesExplore strengths of localizationZoe Weil:Connected to vision, having students become “solutionaries”Ken Robinson:Exploring divergent thinking and critically questioning convergent thinkingAloha/Haole consciousnesses used for guiding metaphorsAnthony Bourdain’s No Reservations episode in Nicaragua to provide acontext for ecojustice
YEAR 1 - FINDINGSOptimism Tensions “Solutionaries” How will this fit with current curricula? Having a meaningful purpose for teaching Is this an attack on traditional science? Authentic connections with standards Personal identities and mindsets as “participators” Interdisciplinary connections Will this too much for young Community-based teaching students? opportunities and partnerships Is this narrowing or even indoctrinating?
YEAR 2 - GOALSWork with new principal and support staffFocus on classroom teaching practices Data teams 1-on-1 discussions Observations Co-teaching Unit and lesson planning/reflectionUse formalized data collection such as interviews, surveys, and ongoing observationsPre-service teachers
(BEGINNING)YEAR 2 - FINDINGSNew principal and staff focusing more on traditional EE, inquiry, very familiar withEJ framework in a practice based contextTeachers consistently express feeling overwhelmed by the principal’s new andongoing initiatives.Teachers are not yet incorporating EJ into their lessons although there is awillingnessDuring planning, debriefing/reflecting, and co-teaching experiences (4) teachersexpressed a strong desire to incorporate EJ, generated their own ideas, seepossibilities One teacher talked to us for about 3 hours deconstructing her learning experiences and her questioning of the traditional schooling practices (commons-creator)
(BEGINNING)YEAR 2 - FINDINGSClass observations show a current lack of understanding and anarray of outside pressures from testing that are driving teachers’decision-making, inhibited and threatened by testing focus(scripted teaching), fear of taking risks More towards inquiry-based lessons Teachers are struggling to make concepts accessible for students, “stuck” in their own mindsets of teaching about environment and science in general. When EJ was used, students were more motivated and able to access concepts
YEAR 3 - GOALSHand-off to identified teacher leaders and administratorsMore teachers become leadersOngoing support for teachers in classrooms, meetings, andprofessional developmentUse formalized data collection such as interviews, surveys,and ongoing observations