This mixed methods case study examined middle school students’ empathy with the environment within a critical place-based art classroom. The curriculum was informed by the ecological imagination, which calls for a new mode of education: education that embraces the arts as a way to conceive of pro-ecological perspectives, other ways of being in relation to the earth, better ecological alternatives, and new dialogues about our role in the world. Empathy with the environment was examined since empathy has close ties to aesthetic experience and, much like place-based education, is able to facilitate connections between students and living things. Operating in the pragmatic paradigm, I asked the following questions: How do middle school students demonstrate empathy with the environment throughout a critical place-based art program? How does participation in a critical place-based art education program affect students’ pro-environmental orientations (ecological paradigm)? Which aspects of a critical place-based art education program, if any, contribute to students’ empathy with the environment? Why? Drawing exercises, interviews, pre and post surveys, reviews of visual/verbal journals, observations, and focus groups were used to answer these questions. Data revealed that students experienced increased levels of empathy with the environment and increased pro-environmental orientations as a result of their participation in the curriculum. Students exhibited empathy with the environment as they cared for nature, developed an awareness of the environment, and began to accept responsibility for the state of the environment. Curricular components that contributed to students’ experiences of empathy included opportunities to experience the world directly, to care for nature, to affect change, and to make curricular choices. In addition, the social dynamics of the class and the teacher’s investment were able to facilitate these experiences. Overall, this study demonstrates that a critical place-based art curriculum is capable of increasing students’ empathy with the environment and pro-environmental orientations.
INDEX WORDS: Art Education, Place-Based Education, Empathy, Environment, Ecology, Imagination, Ecological Paradigm, Middle School, Curriculum
|School:||University of Georgia|
|School Location:||United States -- Georgia|
|Source:||DAI-A 74/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Art education, Environmental education, Middle School education, Curriculum development|
|Keywords:||Empathy, Environmental awareness, Place-based education|
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