Environmental Education and “techno-naturalists”

This is the second in a series of blogs focused on connecting to the natural world in anticipation of our newly funded curriculum project, Minnesota’s Changing Climate.

In the upcoming months we will be busy working on our new project recently funded by the LCCMR, Engaging Students in Environmental Stewardship through Adventure Learning. The foundation of this project came out of a recognition that in order to develop active and life-long stewardship of the environment, we had to build awareness and interest in the natural environment and the impact of climate change. We hope to build this through a new curriculum project that brings together an interactive online classroom, with lesson plans and video and audio clips. We will be using examples from Will Steger’s lifelong archives that demonstrate how his early experiences in the outdoors, observing and documenting what he saw were foundational in his development as an explorer, and climate change educator.

One goal of our project is to find ways to bring together the online environment, with experiences and observations that students make outside. In a recent blog post, author Richard Louv, discusses the idea that some people feel “technology is the antithesis of nature.” He argues that a “techno-naturalists” are here to stay, and that “the proof of the worth of any nature-oriented getaway gadget should not be how focused the user becomes on the technology, but on how long it takes that person to put down the gadget, or become unaware of it, so they feel free to look away and use their own eyes and all the other senses.”

This view on technology and outdoor experiences seems worthy. It is nearly impossible to completely eliminate the presence of technology from outdoor experiences today, and in the case of classroom outdoor experiences the integration of technology is what is being called a mandatory “21st Century skill.” However, it is important to be deliberate and conscious about how and when technology is being used. Most importantly always make time to put down the technology, whether it be pencil or smartphone; smell the flowers, see the birds, or hear the wind in the trees.

fernsmall

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