Promoting Professional Development and Best Practice in EE
How to nurture ecological place meaning?
Greetings! Do you wonder how to nurture “ecological place meaning” among urban residents?
Collectively and individually, we assign various meanings to different places—meanings that reflect cultural, architectural, ecological, historical, political, social, personal, or any other aspects of these places. Different place meanings can be more or less emphasized for a person; we all interpret places differently based on our experiences. For example, in a city or an urban neighborhood, your “ecological place meaning” is strong if you view environmental, ecological and nature-related phenomena and activities as symbols or valued components of an urban place.
Some people view cities as environmentally important places—they may think that “this urban community is as a good place to observe birds, care for trees and grow vegetables,“ or “this city as a place to save biodiversity, enjoy parks, and develop green neighborhoods.” Perhaps, people who have such ecological place meaning towards their cities are likely to participate in urban environmental stewardship, enjoy nature-related activities in cities, or help design more sustainable urban areas. At the same time, some other people don’t see ecological values in cities, urban streets or neighborhoods, or even are not aware that their city has open spaces, green infrastructure and ecological activities that are important for human well-being and nature. As educators, we want to do something to change it.
Urban environmental educators may be able to nurture ecological place meaning among urban residents. But how? The educators’ and students’ professional stories presented in the previous post (https://naaee.org/eepro/blog/power-stories) illuminate how to nurture ecological place meaning. We have analyzed these stories, and published results in a journal article. Although results speak mostly for the Bronx where research was conducted, they can also be applicable to other cities. Please download and read this article for free:
Reference: Russ A., Peters S.J., Krasny M.E., and Stedman R.C. (2015). Development of ecological place meaning in New York City. The Journal of Environmental Education, 46(2), 73-93.
In sum, as reflected in the diagram, ecological place meaning in cities can be nurtured through: (1) Direct experiences of places, through which participants of urban environmental education involve in hands-on urban stewardship activities, frequently visit natural urban places, get in touch with green infrastructure and open spaces, or even visit places outside a city to get a new perspective on cities; (2) Social interactions, in which participants of urban environmental education learn or construct place meanings through stories, discussions, interpretation, or interactions with peers and environmental professionals who can tell about ecological place meanings that are not easily visible; (3) Development of participants’ ecological identity that helps them see and value ecological aspects of urban places, such as by assigning them a role of environmental stewards, helping them to develop skills and competence to act on behalf of urban ecosystems, and fostering their feeling of ownership of urban places.
To learn more, download the free article mentioned above.