Ecological Education in Action

On Weaving Education, Culture, and the Environment

Edited by Gregory A. Smith & Dilafruz R. Williams

Subjects: Environmental Studies, Religion
Paperback : 9780791439869, 252 pages, November 1998
Hardcover : 9780791439852, 252 pages, December 1998

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Table of contents


Introduction: Re-engaging Culture and Ecology

Gregory A. Smith and Dilafruz R. Williams

Part 1: K-12 Settings

1. Stories from our Common Roots: Strategies for Building an Ecologically Sustainable Way of Learning

Joseph Kiefer and Martin Kemple

2. Deepening Children's Participation through Local Ecological Investigations

Paul Krapfel

3. From Human Waste to the Gift of Soil

Madbu Suri Prakash and Hedy Richardson

4. From Margin to Center: Initiation and Development of an Environmental School from the Ground Up

Dilafruz R. Williams and Sarah Taylor

5. Exploring Children's Picture Books through Ecofeminist Literacy

Elaine G. Schwartz

6. Education Indigenous to Place: Western Science Meets Native Reality

Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley and Ray Barnhardt

Part II: Higher Education and Nonformal Settings

7. Liberation and Compassion in Environmental Studies

Stephanie Kaza

8. Changing the Dominant Cultural Perspective in Education

C. A. Bowers

9. Environmental Autobiography in Undergraduate Educational Studies

Peter Blaze Corcoran

10. Reclaiming Biophilia: Lessons from Indigenous Peoples

Gregory Cajete

11. Creating a Public of Environmentalists: The Role of Nonformal Education

Gregory A. Smith

12. Reassembling the Pieces: Ecological Design and the Liberal Arts

David W. Orr

Selected Programs and Resources that Address Ecological Education

Biographical Sketches


Celebrates the work of educators who explore ecological issues in school and non-school settings. Gives examples of ways to impact the thinking of children and adults in order to affirm the values of sufficiency, mutual support, and community.


Ecological Education in Action celebrates the work of innovative educators in North America who explore ecological issues in school and non-school settings. These educators demonstrate how to reshape the thinking of children and adults to affirm the value of sufficiency, mutual support, and community.

Courses in environmental education often focus on scientific analysis and social policy—not cultural change. Children are exposed to information regarding environmental problems and explore such topics as endangered species, the logging of tropical rainforests, or the monitoring of water quality in local streams and rivers. Some adopt manatees or whales, or create school-wide recycling programs. These topics and efforts are without question commendable, however, missing is a recognition of the deeper cultural transformations that must accompany the shift to a more ecologically sustainable way of life.

Ecological Education in Action describes courses, programs, or projects that are transformative in nature, aimed at engendering the experience of connectedness that lies at the heart of moral action. The book creates a powerful and useful image of what an ecologically grounded form of education for our own era could look like.

[Contributors include Ray Barnhardt, C. A. Bowers, Gregory Cajete, Peter Blaze Corcoran, Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley, Stephanie Kaza, Martin Kemple, Joseph Kiefer, Paul Krapfel, David W. Orr, Madhu Suri Prakash, Hedy Richardson, Elaine Schwartz, Gregory A. Smith, Sarah Taylor, and Diafruz R. Williams. ]

Gregory A. Smith is Associate Professor in the Education Department at Lewis and Clark College. He is the author of Education and the Environment: Learning to Live With Limits, also published by SUNY Press, a coauthor of Reducing the Risk: Schools as Communities of Support, and the editor of Public Schools That Work. Dilafruz R. Williams is Associate Professor in the School of Education at Portland State University.


"Ecological Education in Action vividly evokes the connections between place-based learning and the stories, resources, and needs of communities. Though the chapters here vary widely among the regions they describe and the educational programs they discuss, they return over and over to two central emphases: the value of traditional and localized knowledge in fostering deeper personal identification with a landscape, and the essential connection between ecological sustainability and activism on behalf of social justice. This is one of the most distinctive, useful, and inspiring books I know in the burgeoning field of environmental education. " — John Elder, Stewart Professor of English and Environmental Studies, Middlebury College

"I love it when a book translates ideas I have been kicking around in my mind into articulate, lucid prose. Ecological Education in Action provided that alchemical experience for me. Within a week of reading most of the chapters, I was recommending them to my colleagues and friends. These stories, by some of America's most committed educational practitioners, did the trick. They quenched my thirst for place immersion and they slowly unfolded solutions to the problem of how to make environmental education the warp of the school fabric rather than just tassels attached to the edge. The diverse perspectives, from ecofeminism to indigenous people's education, helped me to understand the broad spectrum of ecological education in all its manifestations. This is a book of trail markers that show you the path to the destination of ecologically inspired K-12 education. " — David Sobel, Director, Teacher Certification Programs, Education Department, Antioch New England Graduate School