Advanced Theory and Practice of Environmental Education (EDUC 470) is a course I am currently taking in the Spring 2015 quarter with Professor Sara Garcia. EDUC 470 is part of the Science, Technology, Environmental Education, and Mathematics emphasis; the department describes environment as a “connecting theme across all courses” in the STEEM emphasis. This class provides a contrasting perspective on the function that education serves in society and the forms that it should take than other courses I have taken, particularly the education technology classes.
The course text that we read in the first half of the quarter, Education for Sustainability by Paul Clarke, argues that we need to focus on our local communities and environments and understand our place in the natural world. The global environmental crisis is viewed as a ticking clock: Clarke urges communities and schools to take immediate actions to address issues facing us, like climate change. In his view, schools are the perfect places to initiate sustainability projects and promote eco-literacy. He argues against the consumer culture that drives many western economies, and believes that we need to regain our sense of place. In reading this book and taking this class, I see strong differences in the “future of education” that he envisions and the technologically-enriched future we discuss in other classes.
The course best represents the Lumina Foundation's M.A. Degree Qualification of engaging diverse perspectives. EDUC 470 has changed the way I look at our society. It has motivated me to care about the environment and the serious problems we face. All of the education advances and reforms we could make through new technologies, new standards, and new ways of teaching might not matter if humans continue to ignore the destructive nature of our lifestyles. One dire prediction made in Clarke’s book was the possibility of the human population peaking at 9 billion in 2050 (Clarke, 2012, p. 1), but somehow our numbers would reduce to 1 billion in only fifty years (Clarke, 2012, p. 19). Essentially, the underlying argument is: what good are technologies and other consumer products if we destroy our planet, inflicting extinction on ourselves in the course of the next century?
The environmental focus for the quarter is water, which is an incredibly relevant topic with the severe drought that California is experiencing. Our midterm assignment was a reflective essay, called Currere, in which we explored our personal relationships with water in four stages: regressive, progressive, analytical, and synthetical. This was a different kind of assignment than I was used to. It involved digging deep into my personal history and relationship with water, allowing memories and feelings that I had not thought about in awhile to resurface. This artifact is an essay that documents both personal experiences and public, global, environmental concerns with water.
The other main assignment is a group project on water education using Project WET; my teammates and I taught a lesson on the costs associated with leaking faucets to a third and fourth grade class. Through these assignments and projects, I’ve become much more conscientious about water usage and the ongoing drought, but also more worried about the future of our state (in the near term) and our planet (in the long term). This course has inspired me to think about how I can foster environmental awareness in curriculum I design; in a sense, the course is meeting the program’s goal of having environment as a connecting theme across all courses, as I now look at what I create, the messages conveyed through lesson objectives and activities, and the tools I use to create curriculum through a lens of sustainability. We certainly are in the midst of a global crisis, and today’s students and future generations will need to face this crisis head-on and make some incredibly vital decisions.
 Clarke, P. (2012). Education for sustainability: Becoming naturally smart. London: Routledge.
 Project WET: Curriculum and activity guide 2.0. (2011). Bozeman, Mont.: Project WET Foundation.