Revitalizing Community-Based Language Arts Curriculum and Practice through EcoJustice Education

Article excerpt

The participation in traditions amongst young and old bring joy, cooperation, intendependency and sustainability within the local community instead of a perspective of selfishness and materialism. Futhermore, by choosing to incooporate commons based practices in our daily lives we have the power to positively impact our community and global world. Choosing to revitalize the commons within our school environment can lead to achieving a sense of spiritual pride, strengthening family/local community bonds, building cognition and language skills and lead to making decision-actions for a healthier environment.

-Graduate Student Participant-

Offering a starting point for place-based Ecojustice pedagogy in teacher education (and our public classrooms and schools), the current available literature is emphatic that teacher education programs should return to community for developing socially transformative teachers. In community-based service learning program outcomes (Buchanan et al., 2002; Gay, 2000; Murrell, 1998; Rogers, 2006; Root 8c Furco, 2001; Seidel 8c Friend, 2002; Sleeter, 2001; Wade, 2000; Zeichner, 1996) teachers were able to realize a broader definition of teaching and learning. Additionally, community-based teacher educators were found to provide important and essential knowledge toward developing socially transformative teachers (Cooper, 2007; Nieto, 1999; Mahan, 1982; Murrell, 1998; Sleeter 2001; Stachowski 8c Mahan, 1998; Zeichner, 2003; Melnick 8c Zeichner, 1995).

Stemming from these research findings suggesting that supported fieldwork experiences by community members working outside the school within an authentic community context may offer the best opportunity to develop teachers' cultural competence and understanding of larger social issues, this paper examines how an implemented alternative communitybased program framework provided in-service graduate students ample opportunities to redefine and evaluate definitions and applications of teaching and learning for their language arts classroom curricula.

Specifically, this study sought to discover if a teacher education course at the graduate level, through Ecojustice Education, might lead in-service teachers to become more socially and ecologically transformative in their teaching practice. Within graduate course and fieldwork content of exploring relationships and current trends of elementary school curriculum, participants were provided the opportunity to reexamine their daily lives in terms of Ecojustice place-based "commons revitalization" [enhancing sustainable social practices, traditions, languages, cultural patterns, intergenerational knowledge, and natural system relationships that are shared without cost by members of a community] and "market enclosure" [monetization and integration into industrial culture that limits the shared access, use and decision power of the commons] (Bowers, 2004). While exploring theoretical frameworks, films and texts in coursework that connected Ecojustice to their lives, learning and teaching, participants simultaneously experienced revitalization of a community commons skill in fieldwork.

As described below, ultimately, within coursework exploration of Ecojustice, and within their fieldwork intergenerational skill acquisition experience, participants found affinity to local community or family mentors. The commons revitalization fieldwork component made an indelible impression, experientially reinforcing their newfound coursework mindset lens of commonsbased versus market-based culture, and translated into authentic applications for rethinking elementary language arts curriculum redesign.

Ecojustice course and fieldwork applications

The in-service elementary teachers within this graduate course study embraced the offer of a professional life changing mindset opportunity to further explore, define, and develop alternative teaching strategies and elementary curriculum redesign through collaboration with family and community mentors. …