MA Environmental Education and Communication Theses

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    The Bridges and Barriers to Outdoor Place-Based Learning within Secondary Schools in Alberta
    (2023) Gilchrist, Rosalind, Jennifer; Kool, Richard
    My research focused on investigating what grade 7-12 teachers in Alberta believe outdoor place-based learning (PBL) to be and what they feel the bridges and barriers are to incorporating outdoor PBL into regular pedagogical practice. I found participants using the snowball sampling method after initially asking teachers and curriculum consultants I know and carried out individual semi-structured interviews with seven teachers, only five of which, due to scheduling difficulties, also took part in a focus group. I then used grounded theory to analyse my data as I collected it and developed a theory from the data gathered through thematic coding. My main finding was that my informants demonstrated a lack of understanding about what place-based learning is. Even with this lack of understanding, I was able to use my data to analyse the bridges and barriers to outdoor PBL. The topics I discerned fell into three broad categories: what a teacher can control, what a teacher can influence, and what a teacher cannot control, all regarding taking classes outside for PBL. Interestingly, the topics that fell under what teachers cannot control was the smallest category, indicating the majority of topics discussed either can be controlled or influenced positively by the teacher.
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    Mapping Soil and Plant Communities: Shifting Western Culture’s Perspectives of Ecological Land Management
    (2023) Beerman, Mary, Louise; Dushenko, William
    Civilizations historically share a common trajectory of soil degradation through cyclical technological advancements and soil productivity. A living soil food web provides a holistic approach to eco-regenerative properties as an expression of the soil microbial community (SMC) in relationship to plants and other organisms. Acknowledging soil ecology’s identification of plant-SMC-plant signalling, this study’s mixed methodology addressed the question of how an eco-centred perspective of living soil and plant relationships can contribute to this understanding. Using quantitative field analysis, Cornus alternifolia was identified to curate a SMC at a lower than anticipated fungal:bacterial (F:B) ratio, across three different seral stages in a southwestern Ontario mixed deciduous forest. Qualitative interviews and analyses of three land management industry discussion groups, using Grounded Theory methodology, affirmed a variable understanding of a SMC-plant eco-context, and identified challenges and leverage potentials for industry eco-regeneration focused on land management and cultural changes, as well as ecology.
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    Rooted in the earth: becoming aware of our ecological self through outdoor eco yoga
    (2023-09-13) Clarke, Danielle; McKendry, Virginia
    This thesis research explored the development and efficacy of a place-responsive Eco Yoga pedagogy and curriculum. The research used focus groups, interviews, and journal entries to gather data from 4 participants over the age of 18 residing in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland as they engaged in an 8-week Outdoor Eco Yoga pilot program. The developed pedagogy and subsequent curriculum considered the historical and philosophical dimensions of yoga and deep ecology by administering a blended program that was experientially focused and phenomenologically explored. Following the pilot program or sadhana (translated from Sanskrit, the language of yoga, to mean an intentional and consistent practice), an enhanced ecological awareness of, responsiveness to, and emotional resonance with place arose from the data as participants developed a reciprocal relationship with the land. The research revealed a complex and multidimensional journey whereby participants simultaneously explored themselves (immersive depth) and the ecological environment (expansive depth). Thereon, a model of transformation emerged, a part of which was the development of an embodied language and an intuitive way of knowing referred to here as now-ledge. This research is situated within the fields of Environmental Education (EE) and (Eco) Yoga and as such provides an integrated and evidence-based framework for educators and instructors alike.
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    A recipe for resilience: from quarantine baking to ecofeminist pedagogy
    (2023-06-19) Bates, Karen; Leighton, Hilary
    The COVID-19 pandemic caused me to reflect on how my home economics grade 8 to 12 pedagogy changed during crisis. In addition, the quarantine period from March to June of 2020 created an immersion in rapid adaptation of food practices during a time of socio-economic disruption. This multidisciplinary approach to resilience research explored autoethnographic narratives of personal identity and transformation with regard to food systems during crisis using an ecofeminist lens, in addition to writing as inquiry comprised of a selection of themed Twitter comments about quarantine baking intended to explore the relationship between cooking and socioecological resilience. A growing sense of connection to nature through food and finding my place in the feminist movement emerged through reflective practice and reflexive responses to bake from the public domain that I discovered. Finally, I reflect on how these insights fed my teaching practice to become more aligned with the values of environmental education and the caring ethic of feminism.
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    Sparking cultural transformation through dialogue
    (2022-12-13) Bristow, Marta; MacGillivray, Alice
    This study explores the transformational potential of dialogue to spark cultural change. Our society faces critical environmental challenges, and numerous studies demonstrate the power of dialogue to engage individuals in environmental issues. This qualitative study further investigates that potential, based on interviews with nine experts in leading and facilitating dialogue. The interviewees shared their insights on how dialogue can help individuals reimagine opportunities for action and change and expand their awareness of possible paths toward a more sustainable society. The findings led to a vision of dialogue as a powerful process for: expanding participants’ understanding of the complexity of an issue being discussed; facilitating opportunities for participants to uncover shared values, so they are more open to each other’s perspectives; increasing participants’ capacity to validate multiple perspectives; and creating a space for participants to work together collaboratively, to allow new solutions to emerge. Keywords: dialogue; environmental issues; sustainability; Coordinated Management of Meaning; Art of Hosting Meaningful Conversations; transformative learning theory; Theory U; presence; presencing; integrative values