Promoting Environmental and Cultural Awareness through Experiential Learning

By Jessica Evans and Elissa Graff.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

According to the Association for Experiential Education, experiential education is “a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, and clarify values.” This form of learning can be used in a higher education setting in order to develop and nurture relationships, including “learner to self, learner to others, and learner to the world at large” (AEE).
Using student narratives, this paper demonstrates how two groups of students enrolled at Lincoln Memorial University (Harrogate, Tennessee, USA) were able to develop greater environmental and cultural awareness of their own community by observing various environmental issues and cultural practices of Belizean communities. An art professor and a biology instructor taught a multidisciplinary course in March 2010 and March 2011. During the two 10-day courses, students were exposed to issues related to invasive species, pollution, as well as other environmental concerns. Furthermore, students were engaged in art activities that promoted environmental and cultural awareness, including art practices that focus on the use of natural resources. This paper will show that upon return to the home state of Tennessee, the knowledge gained by the students has had a sustained positive impact.

Keywords: Experiential Learning, Biology, Art, Environmental Awareness, Cultural Awareness, Belize, Interdisciplinary Education

International Journal of Sustainability Education, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.151-160. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 216.562KB).

Jessica Evans

Instructor, Math and Natural Sciences, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN, USA

Elissa Graff

Assistant Professor, Humanities and Fine Arts, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN, USA

Elissa Graff obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Miami University and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Kansas. During six years of employment at Appalachian State University, she obtained her K-12 Art Teaching Certification. Now, she resides in the Cumberland Gap region of Southeastern Kentucky and is one of two professors of Visual Arts at Lincoln Memorial University. Being an avid hiker and runner has inspired her artwork and has deeply connected her to the landscape. Creating work from nature has motivated her to educate others on the need for both appreciation and preservation of our world. Recycling and/or reusing materials have become recurrent themes in both her art and her teaching. She is currently pursuing her doctorate focusing on engaging today’s college student through the use of experiential practices.