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Building Bioregional Literacy - The Evergreen State College


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									                          Building Bioregional Literacy
               Place-Based Approaches to the Teaching of Writing

Kathleen Byrd
South Puget Sound Community College
(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):

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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