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Building Bioregional Literacy Place-Based Approaches to the Teaching of Writing Kathleen Byrd Writing/Humanities South Puget Sound Community College firstname.lastname@example.org (360) 596-5339 “There is no honest way around the reality that the big numbers having to do with population growth, disruption of the earth’s biogeochemical cycles, species extinction, and the health of the soils, forests, and water are running against us. No one of these is necessarily fatal to our prospects. Taken together, however, they point inescapably to the conclusion that we do not have much time to set things right if we are to avoid traumas in the decades ahead. The momentum of big numbers is sweeping us toward a precipice, but the words, concepts, theories, and stories essential to comprehend our situation are not yet part of our political language or public mind set.” -- David Orr (1994) Course: Writing 101 Course Theme: Writing a Sense of Place Course Text: Saving Place: An Ecocomposition Reader, Sidney Dobrin. McGraw Hill. 2005. Assignment Sequence: 1) Collage Essay: Start Where You Are. Who Are You as a Writer? Readings on writing for college Journal Writing Cut and Paste Organizing Recognizing an emerging message Self-reflection 2) Integration Essay: Entering the Conversation: A Sense of Place. Readings from Saving Place an eco-composition reader Seminar discussions Journal Writing Integrating sources Developing a Thesis 3) Research Essay: Engaging ideas locally. Sense of Place Quiz, campus walk & Haiku writing Guest Speakers from the community Writing a research prospectus: Topic & Question, Interest, Plan, & Relevance to local place. Gathering Evidence & Kinds of sources: Print source from library database, experience, expert testimony (interview). Thesis and source integration 4) Portfolio Essay: Reflecting on the learning. Self-reflection and assessment Tribute & Publication Honoring self and others Challenges & Opportunities of Local Research Projects 1) How to address or mediate student resistance to studying “the environment” or “nature” in a writing class. The local research assignment is both a challenge and an opportunity for mediating what Paul Horton, Director of Climate Solutions, calls the movement from “denial to despair” about raising awareness of environmental issues. 2) Assessment challenges and considerations – Assessment of ecological literacy in a writing class becomes somewhat interdisciplinary. Student engagement in emerging public discourse in a writing class provides opportunities for authentic assessment (Wiggins, 1990) and for assessment of thinking (Minnich, 2003). 3) Authentic assessment opportunities for students writing about local issues – finding places to publish their voices. 4) Students engaged in local research enrich a sense of learning community by bringing their outside lives into the classroom. Resources for Ecological Literacy: Orr, David W. Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect. Washington D.C.: Island Press, 2004. The Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE): http://www.asle.umn.edu EnviroArts: Orion Online: http://artsenvirolink.org/index.html Resources on Assessment: Minnich, Elizabeth Kamarck “Teaching Thinking: Moral and Political Considerations” Change. September/October, 2003, 19-24. Available online at http://www.elizabethminnich.com/change-think.pdf Wiggins, Grant “The case for authentic assessment” Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 2.2 (1990) Retrieved March 8, 2007 from http://PAREonline.net/getvn.asp?v=2&n=2 .
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