Does a Spiritual Imperative Drive Your EE Work? | NAAEE
eePRO

The hub for environmental education professional development

Does a Spiritual Imperative Drive Your EE Work?

A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of ‘moral imperative’ as a call to action to show up in the world and act from a place of strong moral grounding. I have always applied my morals to my work of environmental education. Do you also? How so?

Today, I have been stirred to embrace my ‘spiritual imperative’ (see link below). Perhaps, the call to not only oppose, but fight for an end to racism and climate and environmental injustice, is not as a political task but a response to a religious, a spiritual imperative. Do you have a deep moral or spiritual imperative that drives your work as an environmental educator? How could one’s moral or spiritual imperative support them in diversity, equity, inclusivity and justice work within the EE field?

I continue to think deeply about the purpose of this eePro group and have a desire to encourage all of us to not only think about these things, yet also share a bit of your thinking so we can all expand our minds and souls together. So, please contribute to this discussion thread with your raggedy unpolished thoughts.

This question reminds me of how incorporating a spiritual imperative to my environmental work expanded the scope of my work and how I think about stewardship. When I entered my undergraduate studies as an agnostic, I had a moral imperative to care for the environment as a way to be a good citizen of the world, but I wasn't interested in the equity and justice aspects of sustainability (which I think has a lot to do with the privileges I have as a white and Asian American person from a managerial-class family). It wasn't until I decided to follow Jesus that I realized that "creation" means people, plants, animals, water, air, and more: all that is and makes up life. I think that was the point when my moral imperative became a spiritual imperative, which has led to me recognizing the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice both internally and externally in our environmental work. I'm still figuring out how to shape my work with that in mind, particularly as an educator at a government agency, so I'd love to hear other people's thoughts about and approaches to this!

I've been slow to respond to this conversation but have really enjoyed reading everyone's comments. My presence in this group is probably a little odd... I'm actually a pastor who has grown as an environmental educator. I try to incorporate our relationship with the earth into all of my work, and have delighted to discover how much the Christian tradition has to say about this, even as it often gets lost in western society. My congregation's building is located on 9 acres of land that was often ignored or even seen as a liability when I arrived. Over the past 17 years the congregation has indulged my interest in ecology and we have partnered with our neighboring elementary school and local nature center to do land stewardship and learning projects together. Most recently this resulted in 2 acres of lawn being planted as a prairie for the school and neighbors to enjoy. I didn't excel in science as a student but most of my learning these days isn't theology but biology. I love learning more about the natural world and discovering the ever-deepening connections that hold everything together. In the process I'm discovering with my congregation new expressions of our common vocation. I'd love to share more thoughts, resources and stories with this group- thank you for opening up this conversation!

John - please feel welcome and encouraged to share as much as you would like with this group. You can start a "+Discussion Thread" anytime. We want to ensure that everyone feels welcome to contribute and share.

Thanks for your thoughtful contribution to this discussion thread. Welcome to this group. You are in the right place.

I love what I've been reading in this group. I am an interventionist at a K-12 school in southeast TN. It is a new "mega" campus that combined three inner city schools. It first opened during the pandemic and the combination of covid challenges and that of bringing together students and staff from three different established school cultures has proven to be overwhelming. Teacher and student moral is low, effective learning is a struggle because behavior and trauma has yet to receive a solution. This campus has been funded as a STEM school and is neighbor to the community middle and high school campus. The three schools border a property owned by a corporation who has dedicated land as a community nature park. Originally there was a desire to create and outdoor learning based program for Kindergarten but it did not receive enough faculty support to succeed. I see so much potential here to address our students spiritual deficits by simply providing them access to meaningful nature based learning. I envision a program that would bring lasting solutions for our community by providing our students with passionate environmental engagement. I think this passion would carry over to extended community involvement engaging members from all generations in an authentic way. I just don't know where to begin to "sow the seed" of this idea. I searched the internet today and found eePRO so this is where I began. Any suggestions about where to go from here?

Hi Jessica, I'm sorry to hear about the difficulties y'all have been facing with the new mega-campus. That sounds like a lot going on at once! I totally agree with you about the potential to address your students' spiritual deficits by simply providing them access to meaningful nature-based learning. I know it can seem overwhelming to know where to start. Since you mentioned the initial desire to create and outdoor learning based program for Kindergarten, I encourage you to check out one of the great early childhood environmental education programs available through Project WILD, Project WET, and Project Learning Tree. WILD has Growing Up WILD, WET has Getting Little Feet Wet, and PLT has Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood. All are available through professional development. Maybe having a group of Kindergarten educators go through a training together would be a nice, small, but tangible way to start. Then they would have some activities and empowerment to take learning outdoors. Best wishes to you and your school - and thank you for all your work to support the young people in your community!

Stepping away from EE with a scientific focus allows us to look and actually "see" the inequities that have existed for hundreds of years. While certainly no expert on the subject, I definitely feel that your spirituality is one of your best assets in EE Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and E-justice work. It is my belief that most spirituality is initiated through exposure, direct or indirect, to a religion or philosophy that tries to teach us the acceptable ways to be a good human being. While this is overly simplified for the sake of example, every major religion has a "do unto others..." clause that should naturally lead us to provide opportunities equally and to justly recognize and unravel the inequities that may occur. However, this sentiment does not seem to translate into our social interactions. The fixation on “us & them” has been supported for far too long in our social constructs. Moving back to the basics of simply being good human beings and good neighbors should provide a platform on which to build equitable, diverse, inclusive and just EE opportunities.