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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Liquid edges of place & pedagogy: Sense of Place and Community-based Youth Engagement in The Dalles, OR
by Morehouse, Aaron, Ph.D., Prescott College, 2011, 328; 3454951
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this study was to address three primary questions, (1) What role does the conceptualization of place play between cultures and generations within The Dalles, Oregon; (2) How has colonization, migration and interscalar relationships with place—from the local to global—challenged and changed the way in which education and youth leadership activities can and should be implemented in The Dalles community; and (3) Within the diverse histories of The Dalles community, what are the common points of comfort and tension (in regards to youth place-attachment and relationship with the ‘place of inhabitation’) that can inform community organizations in the ways they engage in education and community programs.

This study examines the intersections of narratives across cultures, between generations and in the context of community and place-based education. Grounded in critical theory this study draws upon foundations in place-based, environmental, and community-based education as well as the areas of critical and cultural geographies, critical place pedagogy.

The city of The Dalles in the Columbia River Gorge and The Gorge Explorers program, a place-based service and stewardship program for high school youth, and the local high school were the focus of this study. Youth in the Gorge Explorers program were engaged in land-based stewardship and community-service that included serving as mentors for elementary school youth in place-based and hands-on education programs. Youth were also engaged in critical questions around place during their time of service.

This qualitative research kept a focus on three elements: (1) a critical ethnographic study of the community of The Dalles and its youth, (2) case studies of youth and adult narratives related to the Gorge Explorers program, and (3) an analysis of the intersection of narratives to reveal the points of tension and comfort in the community around the concept of place and how these show the potential for community action. Data collection included individual and group interviews with youth in the Gorge Explorers program as well as at the local high school, individual interviews with parents of Gorge Explorer participants and with educators involved with the Gorge Explorers program.

This place-based critical ethnography and action research process calls attention to the value that a place-based and service oriented program provides for youth in The Dalles, yet concurrently reveals an immense level of disconnection and marginalization of the youth from their community. Youth perspectives on place revealed issues of race, class, diversity, intergenerational relationship, and highlighted the need of gathering space, changes within their schooling, and the complex relationships they have with their place in The Dalles. Adult perspectives on place showed a variable understanding of youth experience, youth leadership, and youth voice in the community. The intersections of cross-cultural and intergenerational narratives revealed areas for improving youth experience and youth action in the community and areas that need to be addressed in education, relationship with the natural landscape, and the experience of power and privilege in the broader community. This study also reveals a pathway forward for youth empowerment action focused on place-based community engagement in The Dalles.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Medrick, Rick
Commitee: Greenwood, David A., Smith, Greg A., Williams, Dilafruz
School: Prescott College
Department: Education / Sustainability Education
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 72/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Geography, Environmental education, Pedagogy
Keywords: Critical pedagogy, Decolonization, Education, Geography, Oregon, Place, Reinhabitation, The Dalles, Youth engagement
Publication Number: 3454951
ISBN: 978-1-124-65113-2
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