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Narratives of place: critical reflections on place-making in the curriculum of environmental studies and sciences (ESS)

Abstract

This essay reflects on the experiential learning of place and place-making in the ESS curriculum, and contributes to the literature on critical place-based education. This paper discusses “narratives of place” as part of a critical race theoretical framework that provides grounding for the pedagogical tools of experiential learning, storytelling, and mental map making to empower students to discover and recover their sense of place. When students have the opportunity to tell their own stories in ways that support and validate their lived realities, they cultivate fertile ground for their narratives of place. Such an approach encourages different understandings of how people make sense of the world and their place in it. To accomplish this, I first discuss the importance of cultivating a sense of place in empowering students to decolonize history. I then reflect on my own teaching experiences in two courses. First, I reflect on storytelling and mental maps as pedagogical tools that encourage students to understand the various ways people experience the environment. Second, I reflect on experiential learning activities that can de-center the environmental “canon” and allow students possible pathways to understand how power influences the ways people encounter their environments in distinct ways. I conclude by offering narratives of place as a possible solution for developing a more critical ESS curriculum that better understands difference, diversity, and inclusion.

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Notes

  1. Drafts of this paper were shared amongst many students in these classes. Their comments and feedback have been instrumental to its development.

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Correspondence to Gabriel R. Valle.

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Valle, G.R. Narratives of place: critical reflections on place-making in the curriculum of environmental studies and sciences (ESS). J Environ Stud Sci 11, 130–138 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-020-00598-6

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Keywords

  • Place, pedagogy
  • Diversity
  • Sense of place
  • Critical race theory
  • Critical place-based education