Monday, March 25, 2002

I wrote this a few months ago in the dead of winter. I figured I'd post it here.

Lonely leaf
laying on the forest floor
foul fiend
unfastened you from the festival of fire in the canopy
while fireflies flashed and fairies flew
felled you so you floated as you fell
only to find fragrant flowers marking your fateful spot
you’re a feast for fungi
fertilizer for flowers
food for trees

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Today is the vernal equinox.

At 1:16 to be exact, there will be equal amounts of day and night. It is a time of balance on the verge of a time for change. I had hoped spring after school classes that I teach would pick up enrollment for the spring. They haven’t. Currently there is only one class slated to go. I think I can salvage two others by combining ages. Sometimes I question this job. I really hate living on such short notice.

So much of what makes my job feasible is the revenue from these classes. If they don’t run I’m going to have a really hard time making this job real. Some days I just want to find another job. I love it here but I’d like some stability. Not knowing how much money you will make ahead of time is difficult. I find out sometimes just a week in advance that classes are cancelled. I’m not full time either so my schedule is never full. I fill it in with other jobs but the pay in those positions is even worse. I need a permanent full time naturalist position. I also need to put in at least two years here so it doesn’t look like I’m an unreliable employee once I seek work elsewhere.

Really my best option is to get my foot into the door at other locations. I need to work programs wherever and where ever they occur. It’s a hard life. It would be easier if I wasn’t married. Not that I would ever wish that. I’m just saying it makes it even harder as I hate to work every weekend and I miss having regular time together with my wife.

The sunny day has turned gray outside. Happy spring.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Snow. Big fat flakes are falling out my window. By reading these posts you'd get the impresion there has been a lot of snow this winter. There has been almost none.

I’m stuck behind my desk taking a little break from writing curricula. I’ve been thinking lately about the role of environmental education. A few weeks back we had a focus group at the nature center. We’re having focus groups with kids, community organizations, businesses, volunteers and parents. We’re hoping to get some ideas for our new five year strategic plan. The outcome will hopefully be a better idea for some new directions we can take. I can in one morning and the flip chart sheets were still stuck to the wall as our director typed them into his lap top computer.

One note in particular caught my eye. Question number one was "What do is the role of a nature center in the community?" Written down as an answer was something to the effect of "create activists?" I pointed it out to the director and ask about it. At that moment another naturalist walked by. The director said that he wrote it down but it seemed to be a question in the minds of the participants. He asked the other naturalist what she thought. "Absolutely not." she replied, "We teach science and it is up to the kids to make their own conclusions and decisions." The director agreed.

I didn’t push the issue at the time but it has been bothering me. We enjoy a reputation in the community as an unbiased science based organization that can provide information to the public. That’s fantastic. The problem is that when you understand the science behind the environmental issues facing us today it is impossible to not be biased. Mercury is poison. DDT destroys the raptor population. Overpopulation causes environmental degradation. This is what science teaches us. So, we are faced with issues important to the survival of the planet. We have the backgrounds in science and we understand the connections. I am not going to stand in front of an audience and say, here’s the facts, oh, but it is up to you to decide if this is bad or not.

With what I know it is unconscionable to teach this material as though it is fact with a non-value laden response. Part of environmental education needs to be value based education. We teach the value of a healthy functioning ecosystem.

Is that a bias? Sure, is there anything wrong with that? I submit not. This isn’t the main issue here however. Is it our job to create activists. If it is not our job, then environmental education is a complete waste of time. We teach with the hope that those we teach will take action on what they learn. Taking action upon knowledge is activism. This is where some may disagree.

They think of activism as some radical path. They see activism as a vocation where all you do in the world is be an activist. There are very few people like this out there. In reality the people most often thought of as activists actually make their living as community organizers, authors, etc.

We in the field of environmental education need a profound redefinition of activism. I submit that if our students fail to take action. All too often we do not teach action. We teach facts, figures, relationships, shapes, patterns, trends, in short, everything but action. Do we really live in fear of action?

We teach kids how to turn of faucets while brushing their teeth. We have just taught activism. We teach kids how to write their legislator asking for clean drinking water this is activism too yet we have somehow crossed a line. Heaven forbid we teach kids how to act upon the science we teach to actively make the world a better place. We wouldn’t want to teach our kids how to ask for clean water now would we?