Jonathan Lash Chair and Assistant Professor of Environmental Education
Tim is driven by a belief that environmental education is essential to the well-being of individuals, societies, and the planet. As a learning scientist, his scholarship and teaching over the past 17 years have focused on designing and implementing curricula, across a variety of learning contexts, that foster environmental stewardship. He has worked collaboratively with many organizations and institutions including the Lawrence Hall of Science, the National Geographic Society, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Monterey Bay and New York Aquariums, and the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Tim's work has received funding from the National Science Foundation and has been published in peer-reviewed journals, academic books, and books for teachers and policy makers.
In all, he's been teaching for nearly 30 years across higher education, museum and aquarium education, and outdoor environmental education contexts on topics such as ecology and environmental issues, cognitive and socio- cultural learning theory, theoretically-grounded curriculum design, research methodologies, and the intersection of critical theory and environmental education practice.
In this introductory course, students will explore the history, practices, career options, and problems of environmental education - educational efforts promoting an understanding of nature, environmentally responsible behavior, and protection of natural resources. Shifts in environmental education research foci, relationships to current and past environmental challenges (e.g., air pollution, species loss, climate change), and differences between U.S. and international efforts will be discussed. We will compare and contrast topics such as education for sustainable development, environmental education, conservation education, environmental behavior change, ecoliteracy, and interpretation. Students will be exposed to three lines of inquiry: critical pedagogy, educational research and experiential learning. In addition to assigned readings, students will complete observation assignments, choose a line of inquiry and follow that line of inquiry to: 1) design, in teams, an environmental education intervention and 2) write an individual paper on a topic of interest to the student related to environmental education.
Many people have opinions about how to improve education, yet few know about education change research. Improving education requires evidence gathered systematically through research. Students will learn methods for conducting research on learning and teaching, methods that yield evidence leading to educational change. This course is for Div II/III students; prior education coursework is necessary. Methodologies learned will include field notetaking, interviewing, surveying, pre-post assessments, and overall design-based approaches. Students learn these methods while collaborating with the professor on an emerging design-based research project at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. Students will read and discuss primary source research literature, participate in research design activities, assist with constructing research instruments, write their own research proposal on a topic of interest to them, lead class discussions, and perform class presentations. This course will be particularly helpful for students interested in educational change, especially those in their last semester of Division II.
Systems exist in every facet of life. Biological systems, political systems, economic systems - they all exhibit properties that, scholars in education argue, we need to understand in order to solve our most pressing environmental and ecojustice problems. In this course, students will grapple with real-world "wicked problems" while they learn about systems theory and systems thinking. How do systems of oppression intersect with disruptions of climate systems? Why do economic systems fail to capture ecosystem services? Can an understanding of dynamic systems increase human capacity to respond to natural and human catastrophes? What are the challenges to teaching people about systems? Can systems thinking yield decision-making that takes into accounts both environmental and justice factors? Through a whole-class project, field trips to sites of environmental and ecojustice atrocities, and short papers on topics of students' own choosing, students will leave this course with new tools for tracking system-driven problems.
In this course, we will explore the explicit and implicit assumption that learning occurs in museum spaces. Many museums (art, science, etc.) and designed museum-like spaces such as aquariums, sculpture gardens, and historical centers, often collectively called "informal learning institutions," frequently include educational components in their mission statements or goals. Yet, how are these components enacted or realized? Several questions will drive our inquiry: How do we define learning in these settings? How do we measure learning in these settings? What design or program elements foster learning in these settings? How do culture, social norms and notions of privilege influence learning in these spaces? We will discuss foundational readings and critical research on museum learning. Students will conduct museum learning activities, conduct a short museum learning study and write a paper on a topic of interest related to museums as learning contexts.
Research in the learning sciences, an interdisciplinary field seeking to advance the science on, and practices of, learning, has much to offer the field of environmental education. In this design-focused course, we will create, iterate, and pilot environmental and sustainability education curriculum materials. Working closely with local environmental organizations, public and private schools, museums, and/or preschools, we will pilot our designs with real learners in real settings. Throughout the course we will read primary source research articles, review curriculum and curriculum platforms designed by learning scientists, and engage with scholars focused on effective curriculum design. Students will create curricular interventions, write short papers that connect theory to practice, and engage in peer-review processes. This course was designed with Div II students in mind.
How do we help people learn about, understand, and enact pro-environmental behavior (e.g., drive less, political action, consumer choice)? We will explore this question through the example of the ocean. Marine ecosystems are under immense human pressures. Ninety percent of fish stocks are overfished; coral reefs are dying; dead zones are growing; ocean acidity is increasing. These all have human consequences, often disproportionately impacting marginalized people (poor; indigenous; minorities). Against this backdrop, we'll explore how to move forward through theories from cognitive science (why can't people "understand" climate issues?), ecopsychology (why don't people use less energy?), learning sciences (how do we design climate change curriculum), psychology (don't people care?), and cultural studies (indigenous peoples know how to live sustainably, right?). Through class discussion, whole-class and individual project-based work, and short class papers, students will develop broad-based knowledge about both marine science and perspectives for promoting a better human-nature future.
In recent years, as a result of interactions between cognitive psychology and education, we now have many ideas about classroom learning, and approaches to teaching, testing and assessment. We also have strong evidence that implementing these ideas could really improve learning for all children and youth, including those who are under- resourced. In this seminar we will work to understand the findings by reading and discussing a selection of theoretical works from cognitive science and psychology. We will examine the practical applications of these theories to education through discussion and time observing/assisting in a classroom or tutoring/mentoring. We will also learn how to evaluate educational claims. Students will be evaluated on a series of short reaction papers, a final paper, and their general participation. This course can be used to satisfy the Educational Psychology requirement for licensure students.
Critical pedagogy of place: a tool for environmental action and social change. In this advanced course on environmental education, we will read seminal works on notions of place (Thoreau; Leopold), critical pedagogy (Freire), place-based (Sobel), critical theory (hooks), queer ecology (Mortimer-Sandilands), and ecophilosophy. We will also read modern thinkers such as Gruenwald/Greenwood, Berry, Gough, and non-white, indigenous and gender diverse scholars LaDuke, Taylor, Hoffner and others. We will spend time in "places" (possibly including a field trip, or two) to investigate our own notions and perceptions thereof to connect the theory and practice. Students in this class will also participate in a whole-class, semester-long activity. Journaling, class discussion, class project participation, and writing a final paper will serve as forms of evaluation for this class. Prerequisite detail: CS 0194 Env. Ed.: Foundations and Inquiries (preferred). If the student has not take CS 0194, they must have taken an education course and a course on Critical Pedagogy or Critical Theory or receive Permission of the Instructor.