EcoLiteracy and BioEmpathy

Being part of a healthy learning community means so much more than producing kids that can memorize knowledge and do well on multiple choice tests. This fact seems to be growing into common acceptance in larger and larger circles in our nation, but the question remains about what the rest of the learning should look like. What opportunities and experiences for growth should we provide students in order that we build the whole child? What skills, knowledge, and understandings are necessary to help to mold our future leaders, citizens, and stewards, so that they can fulfill their duty to leave the planet better than they found it.

Below is a great video about the habits of highly empathetic people. Empathy seems like one of those necessary cogs that we should be nurturing in our kids at school as often as that we can. The second chunk of sharing comes from the Center for Ecoliteracy. It highlights five areas that seems like the starting point for a great conversation surrounding ideas and skills that should be filling our schools. See if those five vital practices ring true to you also.

It is a great time in our work as we are growing a model of education that is whole, healthy, and hopeful.

With a goal of nurturing students to become ecoliterate, the Center for Ecoliteracy has identified five vital practices that integrate emotional, social, and ecological intelligence. They are described at greater length in our book, Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence (Jossey-Bass, 2012), from which the excerpt below is taken.

We work to inspire teachers to use a variety of learning opportunities that help students consider and apply these practices in a diverse range of contexts. These practices allow students to strengthen and extend their capacity to live sustainably.

1. Developing Empathy for All Forms of Life encourages students to expand their sense of compassion to other forms of life. By shifting from our society's dominant mindset (which considers humans to be separate from and superior to the rest of life on Earth) to a view that recognizes humans as being members of the web of life, students broaden their care and concern to include a more inclusive network of relationships.

2. Embracing Sustainability as a Community Practice emerges from knowing that organisms do not exist in isolation. The quality of the web of relationships within any living community determines its collective ability to survive and thrive. By learning about the wondrous ways that plants, animals, and other living things are interdependent, students are inspired to consider the role of interconnectedness within their communities and see the value in strengthening those relationships by thinking and acting cooperatively.

3. Making the Invisible Visible assists students in recognizing the myriad effects of human behavior on other people and the environment. The impacts of human behavior have expanded exponentially in time, space, and magnitude, making the results difficult if not impossible to understand fully. Using tools to help make the invisible visible reveals the far-reaching implications of human behavior and enables us to act in more life-affirming ways.

4. Anticipating Unintended Consequences is a twofold challenge of predicting the potential implications of our behaviors as best we can, while at the same time accepting that we cannot foresee all possible cause-and-effect associations. Assuming that the ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life, students can adopt systems thinking and the ‚Äúprecautionary principle‚ÄĚ as guidelines for cultivating a way of living that defends rather than destroys the web of life. Second, we build resiliency by supporting the capacity of natural and social communities to rebound from unintended consequences.

5. Understanding How Nature Sustains Life is imperative for students to cultivate a society that takes into account future generations and other forms of life. Nature has successfully supported life on Earth for billions of years. Therefore, by examining the Earth's processes, we learn strategies that are applicable to designing human endeavors.