Ellen Jamieson's Story
Updated: Nov 30, 2021
2021 Runner Up for Natural Curiosity's Dr. David Suzuki Award for Excellence in Pre-Service Environmental Education
In reflecting on my experiences related to environmental education, I had a hard time putting my thoughts and feelings into words. Sitting at my desk, I kept glancing out my window, pondering how can I explain my relationship to the earth? It goes beyond words...I think about the sensation of closing my eyes in the face of the first warm sun of the spring, feeling the heat on my skin...of being surrounded by birds as I dig in the mud on a cold, drizzly day, searching for invertebrates...of winding my way through a stand of sumacs on a wintry evening walk...These memories are not only made up of the elements of the natural world that surrounded me in those moments, but also the emotions that frame them. This realization is key to environmental education – hope, happiness, and resiliency.
My personal narrative of environmental learning is rooted in my childhood and elementary education. Growing up in Peterborough surrounded by an abundance of green space and a fairly environmentally conscious community, my childhood was infused with environmental learning through outdoor play, sustainable lifestyle choices, and an awareness of the wonders of nature. My mom was constantly taking us outside for walks in the woods, we rode our bikes all year round, shopped at the local farmer’s markets, reused, reduced, recycled, and talked about nature and the importance of taking care of the environment. My teachables are Biology and English and I believe that this interdisciplinary, art/science experience enables me to deepen my connection to the natural world by studying biological and environmental sciences while also drawing on art and literature to disseminate knowledge. In reflecting on my journey, I realize that my teaching philosophy is grounded in Environmental Education and holistic approaches to learning. I hope to delve deeper into eco-justice applications and also foster a more respectful integration of Indigenous knowledge into my teaching.
I also hope to infuse my teaching with the concept of. interconnectedness by finding a balance between scientific model and Indigenous Knowledge model. I hope to demonstrate to students that everything is connected and that we can learn more from the Land than we can within schools. This isn’t just a tree, it’s not just wood and leaves, it’s a medicine, a poem, a home. It has a history, it can feel.
During my practicums at schools as well as in non-traditional learning environments (outdoor education/nature school), I have experienced a re-energization
by learning through the lens of my students and seeing their reactions and reflections in relation to ESE and social/eco-justice. In
my most recent practicum, I integrated ESE into a poetry assignment. One of my students told me “Hey Miss, I really enjoyed the assignment. I've always been a fan of animals and The Amazon Rainforest, but it reminded me of what was going on, and how the entire rainforest could be gone before we know it. Hopefully, we can do something in the future to prevent it from happening!”. I believe that as teachers we can incorporate ESE into our lessons to our heart’s content,
but it won’t really matter unless you demonstrate your own passion and then see that drive echoed in your students. This comment reinforced my work and lit a spark to do more – the cycle continues!
In my work as an outdoor educator at Evergreen Brickworks, I strive to cultivate a culture of care and gratitude during activities that centre around reciprocal relationships with nature and empathy for each other. This role also encourages play, curiosity, and wonder as children use their
senses and questions to connect to the earth and the habitats in their city.
Reconciliation starts with nurturing our children and returning to our childlike imagination and connection to the earth. As an educator, I am in a position where I can make positive change. I am committed to fully engage in truth and reconciliation and see my teaching as infinite because
learning is never finished. I am committed to including students in project and problem-based environmental learning and taking students outside in all seasons to recognize that the Land is a living, breathing being and has transitions and tensions just like we as humans do. Recently, I have found that simply getting outside for even five minutes can change my perspective. In these uncertain times, I have definitely found sanctuary in exploring the nature trails in my neighbourhood and feel more committed to “walking lightly on the earth”.