The Ecological Teaching and Learning Program Summer Residency in Maine allows students to learn from nature and each other.
The Ecological Teaching and Learning M.S. Program is a program about life. It is education found in conversations, in real life experiences, in books, in classes on everything from lobster fisheries to indigenous language to ecology and health. It is experienced outside, where the more than human world has its own language. It is experienced in personal reflection moving our own evolution of consciousness to a new place. It is experienced in personal relationships within a learning community and it is nurtured online through the internet. The Ecological Teaching and Learning program is about re-connection – reconnecting ourselves to the larger world, reconnecting ourselves to the joys of learning, and reconnecting ourselves to the critical questions that we must navigate to leave the world in better shape for future generations.
The program begins with a summer residency in a rural area, and continues with online courses that will have students investigating their local bioregion and completing research on pedagogy and theory. Next summer, they will complete a second field study in another region (see, for example, this year's in Boston), and then complete an Action Research Project in their own home or workplace.
This July, educators from as far away as Hawaii gathered for three weeks on the
coast of Maine, in a little known area called Cobscook Bay, to launch
themselves into an 18-month graduate program. Day after day, in a rigorous, packed schedule, Lesley vans were seen traversing the back roads along Cobscook Bay visiting with local experts in organic food production, lobster fishing, tidal power energy generation, Passamaquoddy native herbal medicines, land trust conservationists, park rangers, and many other experiences that allow for a full-on immersion of this wild and complex ecosystem. We worked in fields, emptied lobster traps, did citizen science in a marine population study, built new bog trails through coastal lands, participated in an archeological dig and learned about systems theory through lecture, books, and games. The backdrop was always the rocky coast of Maine, the extreme tides that come and go twice daily in Cobscook Bay, and the clearness of the night sky where no cities block the Milky Way. Greeted by fireflies, chewed on by mosquitoes, and snapped at by green crabs when tide pooling, these graduate student educators found themselves falling into their camp beds each night exhausted and happy. “Education is the journey, not the destination,” John Dewey opined. The journey these graduate students have embarked on began on the Coast of Maine. Eighteen months will fly by as these students work hard to deepen their ecological knowledge of the world as they bring their fresh perspectives of systems ecology to their students. Lesley University has given them a fine send-off on their journey.
"My hope lies in education and I am thankful to be on the frontlines
within the ETL program. My challenge is not to feel defeated or negative
as I become more ecologically literate and aware of the severe and
complex challenges that our ecological systems are facing. I need to
believe myself when I tell my students about all of the hope I have for
the future." Liz Zavaterro, Marin Day School, San Rafael, California
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