Units One to Four of the Website Project are mainly concerned with fostering a whole school approach to EfS. Unit Five is about pedagogy; how do we teach through the environment in stimulating and motivational ways that will help to foster sustainable lifestyles? This Unit is not meant to provide a comprehensive catalogue of teaching methods, but to highlight innovative methods of teaching through the environment. By focusing on the middle age range, 7-10 year olds, the methodologies can be more easily adapted for younger or older pupils and hence the whole primary age range.
The Unit has four Sections, some of which are divided into Sub-sections. These four Sections are:
1. The Holistic
2. Expressive Arts and Language.
3. Humanities and Social Subjects.
4. Science, Mathematics, and Information and Computer Technology.
Each of these Sections uses the themes of forest and transport to illustrate methodologies. These themes were chosen so that the concept of sustainability could be examined from a primarily natural perspective; forest and a theme that was largely human in emphasis; transport. These themes were also chosen because of their transnational, European applicability.
Section 1: The Holistic Curriculum
The ordering of the four Sections has a purpose. The environment is a whole, it is not divided into faculties, subjects, cognate areas or year groups therefore Section One is about the Holistic Curriculum. While this Section examines transdisciplinary approaches to teaching through the environment, such as topic or thematic work, it does not suggest this as the only legitimate approach. In many European countries teaching is disciplinary or subject based. What Section One advocates is that subject based approaches take an interdisciplinary view of the environment through curriculum planning that is holistic and recognises that connections between different subject and cognate areas are essential when environmental and sustainability matters are under discussion. Building an awareness of connection and sequence into curricular planning in primary education is good educational practice as well as a crucial element of EfS.
Section 2: Expressive Arts and Language
This Section is second because of the need to rectify the neglect of the affective domain; of emotional intelligence, in the process of educating about the environment. Starting through a transdisciplinary or interdisciplinary approach to EfS with expressive arts and language can produce the strong motivational bond with a theme or topic that provides the emotional component essential to changed attitudes and actions as well as the motivation that engenders interest. We are more likely to adopt sustainable lifestyles for those people and ecosystems we care about.
The left hemisphere of the brain controls language while the right hemisphere controls spatial perception and non-verbal skills. Some have come to recognise in these differing neural loci as multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1993) rather than general ability. Therefore the more teaching strategies respond to and reflect this diversity of intelligences, the better the child learns and develops. Interestingly, the most powerful relationship with the environment takes place up to the age of ten. In order that young pupils have a strong, healthy start to their formal education it is crucial that it contains rich, early, stimulating experiences if they are to achieve their full intellectual and emotional potential.
Given the complex nature of the world in which we live, making decisions about what we want to be, do and have, requires access to an education through which we can develop wide ranging, accurate, flexible knowledge and analytical decision making skills which enable us to identify possibilities and recognise consequences.
Science is important if we are to understand our environment; the world about us. But much science, be it natural, physical or social aims to discover the facts, theories, general laws and principles which underpin environmental understanding and action. But extensive as its findings are, scientific education is necessary but not sufficient to produce wide ranging sustainable lifestyles. Environmental actions are influenced, as much if not more, by the diverse cultures in which we live. These cultures are founded on values and beliefs which can change in importance. These values and beliefs can be difficult to articulate especially in multi-cultural societies. But through arts, such as dance, drama, language, music and graphic art we can come to a clearer understanding of such values and beliefs.
Sustainability is a value laden word. It is underpinned by attitudes of being, doing and having; 'The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental needs of present and future generations' (Rio Declaration, Principle 3). A commitment of this nature is fundamentally social; it requires an education which develops emotional intelligence; the intelligence of feelings or emotions (Witkin, 1974, Gardner, 1993, Goleman, 1996).
Fundamental to an education for emotional intelligence is the principle of self-esteem through a mutual sense of respect, importance and responsibility in schools. Therefore these responsibilities have to be shared through high levels of pupil participation in schools.
This Section is based on a sequence which would facilitate planning a unit of work on a transdisciplinary or interdisciplinary basis.
Section 3: Humanities and Social Subjects
This Section recognises that sustainability is fundamentally a social concept. We need to understand that economic and scientific values dominate our environmental actions and decision making. These values are a reflection of our culture and more sustainable lifestyles require that we take a different perspective on the values which sustain our current actions. The approach advocated here is one which integrates time and space. In this Section narrative, storylines, visioning and timelines provide the instruments which can be used for curriculum planning across the three cognate areas examined in the Unit.
Section 4: Science, Mathematics, and Information and Computer Technology
The main emphasis in this Section is on inductive ways of educating in, for and about the environment through science. While many primary school teachers worry about their knowledge of science, too much science education is dominated by a deductive teaching approach in which theories are examined first and experiments and models are then introduced to confirm theory. The inductive, constructivist strategies advocated in this Section model discovery, problem solving and experimental approaches to science in which the processes of prediction and discovery induce great interest and motivation.
The natural world of plants, animals and earth science is familiar to young children. Pupils have robust, common sense theories about many of these environmental processes. By adopting inductive approaches to science education, we not only cater for multiple intelligences, we also expose pupils' taken for granted theories to self scrutiny. When this approach raises conflicts between pupils' intuitive theories and accepted scientific explanations pupils have to reconcile these conflicts and in so doing they achieve higher, more robust and integrated understandings and insights. Constructivism is also manifest in the emphasis put on group discussions. It is for the teacher to decide who generates the questions on which this inductive approach is based, the teacher, the pupils or both.
Science is often criticised for its reductionist approaches and linear thinking. However it should always be remembered that it is scientists who have given us ecology, the GaiaHypothesis and the Web of Life, the models that enable us to comprehend the whole, though we should recognise that even these models are to some degree reductionist.
Systems and life cycle analysis are the two tools used in this Section which could be used to plan interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary units of work.
Special Educational Needs
The materials do attempt to address special educational needs (SENs). The approach taken to these SENs is based on a number of principles:
1. All pupils have some form of learning disability. SENs are differences of degree and not kind. Implicit in the idea of a preferred learning style is that a pupil is less comfortable and competent with other approaches to learning.
2. The idea that pupils have general ability and are therefore able or less able across the suite of cognate areas is rejected in favour of a belief in the theory of multiple intelligences.
3. Preferred learning styles can be viewed as manifestations of differences in intelligence, i.e. the concept of multiple intelligences. Catering for SENs is a form of differentiation; using those intelligences in which pupils are strong to open up a topic is fine but teaching must seek to educate those intelligences in which a pupil is weaker.
4. SENs do not just apply to those who are less capable at learning in a particular way; the gifted have SENs for which the curriculum has to cater.
5. Excluding most pupils with SENs from mainstream education de-skills teachers in that they do not acquire the organisational and managerial skills needed to teach these pupils; skills which may be of great value in creating optimal educational experiences for all pupils.
6. The sensory approaches to learning outlined in Sections Two and Four are particularly powerful ways of providing for those pupils with a specific sensory deprivation.
Go on to Section 5.1: The Holistic Curriculum
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