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Snowy winter scene of pond with spruce trees surrounding the pond

Spirituality as an Essential Way of Knowing

The field of environmental education could deeply benefit from embracing spirituality as an essential way of knowing that touches all beings. It is through direct encounters with the natural world and the beings within it that we grow spiritually and ultimately increase our understanding of how our communities work and how we are part of them. It is when people have strong spiritual grounding and connection they are then more capable of participating in their community and be an advocate of change for their environment. 

The field of environmental education could be more holistically approached with the acknowledgement of the importance of spirituality as a vehicle to recognize connection to place, community, and self. Considering the many ways of knowing, spirituality is one of the many ways among all types of people; it is central for indigenous people, and should be prioritized in environmental education practice. 

I am Sarah Johnson, an environmental education specialist with my small business, Wild Rose Education in Carbondale, Colorado. Through Wild Rose Education I am committed to teaching people 'how to see', to become better observers, and how to take action in the world through participant-centered learning experiences. We go beyond what has been and facilitate becoming what can be. I am also a current student in the Living School at the Center for Action and Contemplation. And, I am a moderator of the newest NAAEE eePro group, Spirituality and EE. 

Along with two other moderators, we are excited to create a space for environmental education professionals to explore how the field of environmental education can be positively changed through spirituality, and how all people can grow spiritually through environmental education.  We invite you to contribute to the online discussion regularly sharing big questions, responding to big ideas, and submitting any news or announcements. If you are interested in contributing a blog piece, please reach out directly to one of us moderators and we will get your submission published. Welcome to all as we embrace the intersectionality of spirituality and environmental education. 

Comments

I am really looking forward to this. Thank you for creating the space here in NAAEE to have these dicsussions and for acknowledging spiritually within nature-based and environmental education.

I find the potential of this conversation to be fascinating! As a child, nature was a place of solitude and escape from daily life. As an adult, it has been a source of guidance and comfort on my own spiritual journey, that began consciously in my 20's. It has continued to lead me on a path of growth and personal development up to the present. Personally, I can't envision environmental education without a connection to spirituality. Developing a thoughtful, earth consciousness in the hearts and minds of children and adults is an essential step towards becoming better human beings and more loving stewards of our planet.

This is so interesting. I've been saying this is one of my goals in pursuing purpose in my life. I can't wait to hear how this unfolds and how we engage as a community together. WEaving together environmental education and spirituality is something I've been longing to do for many years.

Hello Polly! Please continue to share your thoughts with this new group. You have to 'join the group' on this page so you can see the discussion posts, and contribute. https://naaee.org/eepro/groups/spirituality-and-ee Also make sure your notification settings are set within eePro to receive email notifications daily or weekly. We look forward to seeing you in the group.

I just watched the video https://cac.org/living-school/living-school-welcome/ I'm in my classroom bawling - this is what I've been looking for - THANK YOU so much for sharing!!!

Sheryl - so glad you've found the Spirituality and EE group... I look forward to interacting and getting to learn from each other. Please feel encouraged and welcome to add a discussion topic (thoughts, resources, announcements, etc.) to our group. Thank you!

SO SO SO excited about this!!! What a wonderful time to bring this to our country! We are in desperate need of healing and Spiritual Healing through Nature is such a powerful way to combat everything educators and students are going through right now. Thank you SO much!!!

Hello Sheryl, Please continue to share your thoughts with this new group. You have to 'join the group' on this page so you can see the discussion posts, and contribute. https://naaee.org/eepro/groups/spirituality-and-ee Also make sure your notification settings are set within eePro to receive email notifications daily or weekly. We look forward to seeing you in the group.

This is a great idea. I always find solace in nature.

Dear Sarah, I am one of the editors of a journal called Soul to Soul. This journal is designed for practitioners and researchers interested in all aspects of children's spirituality. I would like to make the journal available to those interested within NAAEE. The journal is free. Here are the links for the first three online editions. https://issuu.com/revsteve59/docs/soul_to_soul_issue_2_final_rgb (This link for volume 2). Within this journal you will find the link for Volume 1) https://issuu.com/revsteve59/docs/soul_to_soul_3?fr=sODVlNDQ0NTY0Mjc - Volume 3 Just so you know, this is an international journal. I wish you all happy reading. Deb PS I have a few hard copies that are also available at no charge. Please let me know if you are interested in obtaining one or two copies.

Hi Deborah! I'm a high school Environmental Systems and Aquatics teacher - I'm downloading the journals now! I would LOVE a hard copy of whatever you have to share in my classroom with my students. Thank you SO much for the work you are doing! :-)

Hi Sarah, I cannot express fully how excited I am that the NAAEE has created such a group to look at the relationship between nature and spirituality. I have been looking at spirituality and young children for many years now. I have even offered several workshops for NAAEE. I am here to help in anyway. My focus has always been on young children but over that past few years I see that what is good for young children is also needed/required throughout our lifespan. Two of my favorite authors, the ones who have stretched me to look beyond young children while still integrating them into our discussion of nature and spirituality are Daniel Siegel and Lisa Miller. They have wonderful insight and books to read that focus more on the spiritual side of development but both also mention the important role nature plays in helping us to remain spiritual. best of all this highlight how a strong inner spiritual self helps us to be resilient....something so needed in today's world. Deb Growing Wonder

As a teacher of young children, and as an individual, I love this! The children respond and relate to nature this way spontaneously. Ages 4 - 5 years old, they found a dead bee on the ground in the Fall. They decided to hold a funeral for the bee, thanking it for the honey it had made in it’s lifetime, and singing: “I behold you beautiful one, child of the earth and sun, let my love wash over you, let my love wash over you” as we buried it’s little body in the garden.

Hello Barbara, Please continue to share your thoughts with this new group. You have to 'join the group' on this page so you can see the discussion posts, and contribute. https://naaee.org/eepro/groups/spirituality-and-ee Also make sure your notification settings are set within eePro to receive email notifications daily or weekly. We look forward to seeing you in the group.

This makes me SO happy! I have a 5 year old grandson and he is just beginning to grapple with the concept of death. Nature provides such a perfect way to experience this in a natural way and helps us prepare for our own journey. I'm so grateful that these kinds of practices are being shared and hopefully we can regain some of the knowledge we seem to have lost in our disconnection with nature.

Being indigenous and a NAAEE member for many years I have been trying to introduce Spirituality into our teachings especially our youth. I gave a talk at our Portland conference focusing on this goal. I would love to assist you in any way I can. Carlos Velazquez chi_ex@hotmail.com / 919 520-5611

Hello Carlos - Please continue to share your thoughts with this new group. You have to 'join the group' on this page so you can see the discussion posts, and contribute. https://naaee.org/eepro/groups/spirituality-and-ee Also make sure your notification settings are set within eePro to receive email notifications daily or weekly. We look forward to seeing you in the group.

Thank you, Carlos. I think that we all have much to learn from each other.