Sustainability educators could benefit from better understanding how the built environment, natural environment, and curricular activities can interface to encourage connections between people and place. My research explores the relationship between these dimensions at the Michael Ritchie Big Barn Center for Environmental Health and Education at the Center for Discovery--an innovative project in place-based education and design for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other disabilities. Specifically, my research addressed the following question: For the occupants of the Big Barn, what is the relative and synergistic importance of (a) the built environment, (b) the natural environment, and (c) the curricular activities and experiences, as they encourage connections between people and place? My research was supported by a range of literature related to place-based education and design, as well as research related to universal design and phenomenological ecology. This literature review shaped my decision to use various research methods, including photo elicitation, surveys, interviews, observations, and document analysis. Using qualitative and quantitative techniques, I identified several important themes, including the relationship between photo content and meaning; the importance of curricular activities and the pedagogical value of the farm; the synergistic relationship between the environment and the activities; the relationship to the broader community; and the potential for staff training. These themes provide insight into the lived experiences of the Big Barn staff and highlight lessons that could potentially inform place-based education more broadly.
|Advisor:||Sherman, Peter M.|
|Commitee:||Poleman, Walter, Smith, Greg, Spencer, Daniel|
|Department:||Education / Sustainability Education|
|School Location:||United States -- Arizona|
|Source:||DAI-A 75/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Environmental education, Special education, Sustainability, Architecture|
|Keywords:||Built environment, Ecological design, Phenomenological ecology, Place-based education|
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