We are calling for an ecological education in order to respond to the challenges of our ecological crisis and to save the whole planet. However, ecological education is a new approach to learning, so this means it is still in the process of emerging and a new experiment. There is no ready model for us to copy or to follow. The programs and schools we have listed are often experimental and trying to determine what works best.
We are including them here as part of the perspective of ecological education, because we want to think outside the box, that is, to explore and develop an alternative vision. Unlike thinking of education in a way that is fragmented and confined within disciplines, we think of education in a more holistic way: family, community (including nature world), and school interwoven together. This is why Alfred North Whitehead said that “there is only one subject matter for education, and that is Life in all its manifestations.”(The Aims of Education, 10) Therefore, education cannot be limited to the campus only; it should cover the whole of life. Teachers should not be limited to those who have received teaching certificates, but should include other citizens such as farmers, workers, villagers, who often have gained experience and expertise about the world without earning a diploma. Sometimes even the more-than-human world of nature, plants, and animals can play a teaching role.
We also treat ecological education as a dynamic and organic process which has three stages: romance, precision, and generalization. We borrow this idea from Whitehead’s The Aims of Education, because we think that education is not like industrial but instead organic agriculture. It is about how we treat a human being: do we treat him or her as a machine or as a whole being with intrinsic vale? This is the reason we have categorized the curricula into the three stages—in order to embrace the idea of education as inclusive of the whole of reality, learning within a holistic process of growth, that can be accomplished by doing, not merely limiting only to reading and the rote memorization of facts. This is why we describe education as an activity the weaves together family, community, and school within each stage.
This stage includes children who are less than one-year old to about twelve-years old. During this stage, the main task of learning is to focus on curiosity. It guides children in how to appreciate the beauty of life in order to foster and strengthen their curiosity.
This stage includes young people who are 13-17 years old. During this stage, the primary focus of learning is on broadening understanding and gaining knowledge of different fields via their distinctive frameworks and methods.
This stage includes students who are 18 years old and adults. On this part of the journey of learning, students will gain the capacity of integrating and knowing how to use the knowledge they have gained.
The three stages are not separated or isolated from one another, but help reinforce and accomplish each other. The romance is the main task of the first stage, but it’s effects will continue to permeate through the second and the third stages. It not only provides students with a strong motivation for learning, but also leads them into the stages of precision and generalization. In addition, it also can provide support for those students who are struggling in the stage of precision. Rather than being discarded or superseded, romance will be intensified and deepened by the stage of generalization.
Once again, the only subject matter for education is “life in all its manifestations,” and life everything that is worthwhile. Therefore, education is a tapestry the interweaves families, communities, and schools, and whole worlds. Secondly, education is a process with three stages: romance, precision, and generalization. Its ultimate goal is to produce wisdom via learning, understanding, and using knowledge. In doing so, ecological education will be “the last best hope of the earth.”