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Toward Sustainability Foundation

2017 Gulf Of Maine Institute, 501(c)(3)

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Letter from the Editor

February 19, 2017

 

Dear Reader,

 

Welcome to Vol. I, Issue 3 of GOMI Journal.

 

This issue adds new voices to our on-going conversation to inform and inspire stewardship. These voices are special because they bring humanities to a discussion too often limited to scientists and policy makers. I have had many conversations with people who identify GOMI primarily as an environmental or ecological educational supplement. In response, I stress that the GOMI experience is intentionally much richer and deeper than that. It espouses a more holistic approach to knowing and appreciating nature, and thereby a desire to steward it. Think of it: the natural world has always been a source of inspiration to scientists, poets, painters, and philosophers alike.

 

A growing body of literature points to positive cognitive and health effects for both children and adults when they open themselves to natural world experiences. Walking in the woods, paddling up river, exploring a cave or watching a bee pollinate are but a few of a myriad of flora, fauna, and geological encounters that provide stimuli to all our senses.  Thoreau's transcendental spiritual connectedness to nature's magnitude and grandeur is unavailable to us as we hustle and bustle about our daily lives. Its possibility is becoming increasingly unlikely. Yet, this source of inspiration, it seems, is beneficial beyond a mystical encounter.  It can move us to works of conservation through political action, art, poetry, science and philosophy and improve our mental and physical well-being. Just a walk in the woods may offer many rewards.

 

Those engaged in environmental PBE[1], we born-again John Deweyites, believe, as he did, that education "… is the formation of the mind by setting up certain associations or connections of content by means of a subject matter present from without." A little arcane perhaps, we understand, "Certain associations or connections… from without" to mean meaningful experiential connections to the external, in our case, the environment.  We also understand that there is a natural proclivity to be drawn to nature, and it provides a powerful tool for teaching. PBE exploits and intensifies this natural proclivity by constructing external experiences that stimulate questioning which often is spontaneous. The process leads to a deeper drink of knowledge.

 

In this issue, for example, Ali Fields entreats us to encourage our youths to ask the profound question, "Where is the place of beauty in education?" [2] Ali goes on to encourage a profundity and profusion of questioning techniques as the pathway to a good PBE experience. She leads us to ask, "What role may questions, experientially derived from context, have in learning?"

 

Artist Kim Salathe brings to the conversation the power of art to open us to ways beyond data to understand and communicate the science of stewardship. Beauty helps bond us to our natural world. Senegalese forester Baba Dioum said, "In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."[3] Intricate interactions between the sensual and the cognitive produce the strongest learning. For Kim, Earth without art is "Eh!" Sounds right!

 

Another powerful way to promote stewardship is through civic engagement—an action(s) intended to improve, understand, remedy and/or promote. Civic engagement is the political hand of conservation. Civic engagement also improves students' sense of efficacy and self-esteem. The psychological literature on child and adolescent development is replete with support for this statement.

 

In his telling of the story of the origins of the Pipe Ceremony, Black Elk, the visionary leader of the Oglala Sioux, completes the circle. His words blend into spiritual vision culture, aesthetics, and ecology as the underpinnings of stewardship. Listen: "It is the story of all life that is holy and good to tell and of us two-leggeds, sharing in it with the four-leggeds and the wings of the air and all green things; for these are children of one mother and their father is one Spirit." [4]

 

 

 

[1] As developed by GOMI this place-based (PBE) approach:

•           Promotes learning through rigorous experience rooted in the community and its unique history, environment, culture, economy, literature and art

•           Emphasizes civic engagement, the act(s) of doing something concrete and beneficial to improve, understand, remedy and promote

 

 

[2] Democracy and Education, John Dewey, Free Press Paperback Edition, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. NY1966, p 69

 

 

[3] Valenti, JoAnn M.; Tavana, Gaugau (2005). "Report: Continuing Science Education for Environmental Journalists and Science Writers (In Situ With the Experts)". Science Communication. 27 (2): 300–10.

 

[4] John C. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks, p. 1, First Bison Book 1988 University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln

 

 

John P. Terry, founded the Gulf of Maine Institute in 1999.  John was Editor-in-Chief, CYD (Community Youth Development) Journal from Aug. 1994 to Nov. 2002. John has broad teaching and administrative experience at the university level including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1969-1984, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, 1985-1992, and Union College, Schenectady, NY, 1964-1969. John received national recognition in 2006 when selected  as Civic Ventures,’ Lead with Experience Program 2006 Purpose Prize Fellows.  He is also a 2008 recipient of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment Visionary Award.

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