How Environmental Education and Abolitionist Teaching Share Common Goals | eePRO @ NAAEE

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How Environmental Education and Abolitionist Teaching Share Common Goals

Bettina L. Love’s book, We Want to Do More than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom is a great resource for environmental educators. The connection she makes to social justice and community are two important themes that mirror actions occurring in environmental education (EE) circles. Dr. Love emphasizes the importance of teachers who look like their students, a call to diversity in educational spaces. One of Dr. Love’s elementary teachers taught her the essence of finding her purpose, which is reflected in EE teaching and programing. Fighting Ignorance and Spending Truth (FIST), an afterschool program she participated in elementary school, taught her values centered around youth empowerment and activism. “Black power meant grassroots organizing, human rights, and cooperative economic strategies” (Love, 2019, p. 49).
FIST taught Bettina Love to “love her Blackness as an act of political resistance” which helped her survive school. She discusses the need for community to help her with things she was not able to learn from her family. Part of her community included Black role models, two teachers in her elementary school and the person in charge of FIST. Love discusses that not only do students need educators who look like themselves, but also who teach an abolitionist agenda. Antiracist teaching is when people fight for racial justice and look to “understand the everyday experiences of dark people living, enduring, and resisting White supremacy and White rage” (Love, 2019, p. 54). Dr. Love states how essential it is for educators to understand how unjust systems affect people and their communities in unique ways. Environmental educators often discuss unjust systems.
The part of the book that spoke to me focused on the importance of a sense of community, which I think that environmental educators do well and can continue to create/merge new partnerships within their local communities. For more ideas in expanding connections through environmental education and community, I suggest buying or downloading a copy of the Community Engagement: Guidelines for Excellence from the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). Bettina Love talked about her local Boys and Girls Club and the local recreation center and the neighborhood association that provided a summer camp, after-school program and family emergency services. These community organizations provided Dr. Love with opportunities that she would not otherwise have growing up. These organizations gave her with safe places to explore not only her local community but for her to develop her strengths and interests, another similarity to environmental education. The people in charge of the community organizations lived in the community and knew the parents of the children who attended their programs. This allowed the children increased freedom to just drop by the centers without asking for adult permission. Bettina Love accentuates the importance of these spaces by saying, “As children and young adults, we were responsible to them like we were responsible to our teachers, but it was more authentic because it was our choice to enter these spaces” (Love, 2019, p. 58). She further states that this community raised her.
What we do as environmental educators makes a difference. We are acting as role models and change agents for those we teach. It is important for us to reach out to all communities and to employ people who resemble the local community. Part of our job as educators is to empower people who can start new programs in their local communities. As environmental educators, we provide safe spaces for children to learn new skills and explore their local communities. Environmental educators teach the skills needed for grassroots activism, using programs such as Earth Force, to help students understand their potential for using their voice to make change.
I would love to hear examples from environmental educators and EE organizations about how they are helping to provide community in their local area. How do we empower people to make a difference in their local community? We should celebrate the ways we are making a difference across our global village!