Local Matters, EcoJustice, and Community

Opportunities of Village Life for Teaching Science
  • Wolff-Michael Roth
Part of the Cultural Studies of Science Education book series (CSSE, volume 3)


It is often assumed and reported that students from rural schools do not achieve as well as students from urban areas; and research often appears to overlook the special needs and opportunities that arise for science teaching and learning, in particular, from a rural setting (Tippins and Mueller 2009). Having taught science in rural schools for more than a decade and in different areas of Canada, I have experienced firsthand how there are special opportunities for teaching science that come with a rural context. For example, science can be taught so that local people, local places, and local knowledge matter, allowing students who often do not do well in school, to find themselves and their local environment validated and to excel. This includes students who are treated differently because of a “learning disability” that they come to be stuck with despite the fact that they demonstrably make great contributions not only to their own learning but also to the learning of others. Rural settings provide particular opportunities for implementing the idea of “learning communities,” where the term “community” goes beyond denoting classrooms or school and extends to the entire village or municipality. That is, because of the size of the rural setting, greater permeability between school and everyday life is a possibility and students, rather than producing tests and assignments actually contribute to village life and as a consequence, learn in the process of contributing to the social fabric of their setting. This includes coming to understand ecojustice, because natural environments perhaps more so than the manufactured urban environments allow us to understand the connection between the totality of life generally and human life more specifically. Thus, learning science in rural schools is special because students may not only draw on their local knowledge to make sense of more school-based (book) knowledge but also because their engagement is situated in village life and what they produce and learn enhances the amount of knowledge already available in and to the collective. In the process, the students’ own local knowledge expands and their action possibilities increase, including those for pursuing academic studies that take them away from their rural setting. But for some – including myself, who, first as a teacher then as a professor – rural life remains so attractive and the preferred lifestyle that they return to it after studies and getting settled in a career. That is, teaching science in a place-based manner, in ways that make local people and places matter, and toward ecojustice, actually produces and reproduces a stronger social fabric in rural areas than exists in many urban environments. In fact, there is evidence from big cities that the introduction of urban gardens fundamentally changes life, including substantial decreases in crime and violence. Teaching so that the local matters and for ecojustice, therefore, may contribute to work against the current movement of people toward urban areas, which has become not only a “brain drain” but also a problem for maintaining the social fabric in rural areas. In this chapter, I provide an extended case study of science teaching and learning in one rural community, where I worked with teachers to draw on the opportunities that a rural area provides for teaching science.


Rural Community Rural Setting Rural School Ninth Grade Cane Toad 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The research for this article was funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


  1. Collot, B. (2002). Une école du troisième type ou “La pédagogie de la Mouche. Paris: L’Harmattan.Google Scholar
  2. Derrida, J. (2003). Rogues: Two essays on reason. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Hardré, P. L., Crowson, H. M., Debacker, T. K., & White, D. (2007). Predicting the academic motivation of rural high school students. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75, 247–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Hurd, P. D. (1998). Scientific literacy: New minds for a changing world. Science Education, 82, 407–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Leont’ev, A. N. (1978). Activity, consciousness and personality. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  6. Mueller, M. P. (2009). Educational reflections on the “ecological crisis”: Ecojustice, environmentalism, and sustainability. Science & Education, 18, 1031–1056.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Roth, W.-M. (1998). Designing communities. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Roth, W.-M. (2002a). Aprender ciencia en y para la comunidad. Enseñanza de las Ciencias, 20, 195–208.Google Scholar
  9. Roth, W.-M. (2002b). Taking science education beyond schooling. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education, 2, 37–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Roth, W.-M. (2007). The ethico-moral nature of identity: Prolegomena to the development of third-generation cultural-historical activity theory. International Journal of Educational Research, 46, 83–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Roth, W.-M. (2008). Agency and passivity: Prolegomenon to scientific literacy as ethico-moral praxis. In A. Rodriguez (Ed.), The multiple faces of agency: Innovative strategies for effecting change in urban school contexts (pp. 135–155). Rotterdam: Sense.Google Scholar
  12. Roth, W.-M., & Barton, A. C. (2004). Rethinking scientific literacy. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Roth, W.-M., & Lee, Y. J. (2006). Contradictions in theorizing and implementing “communities. Educational Research Review, 1, 27–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Roth, W.-M., & Lee, Y. J. (2007). “Vygotsky’s neglected legacy”: Cultural-historical activity theory. Review of Educational Research, 77, 186–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Roth, W.-M., & McGinn, M. K. (1997). Deinstitutionalizing school science: Implications of a strong view of situated cognition. Research in Science Education, 27, 497–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Tippins, D. J., & Mueller, M. P. (2009). As if local people and places mattered: A relational, ecological, and pragmatic framework to guide projects of rural education. In W.-M. Roth & K. Tobin (Eds.), The world of science education: Handbook of research in North America (pp. 529–542). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Netherlands 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wolff-Michael Roth
    • 1
  1. 1.University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

Personalised recommendations