Monday, 6 October 2008: 8:15 AM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 342CF
Human connections with Earth directly impact our personal and communal health, safety, economic security and overall quality of life. Some connections are purely practical: we utilize Earth resources to sustain life and societal functions, and we live with the certainty of episodically recurring natural hazards. Other connections to Earth are largely philosophical and are ingrained in our social fabric following a long tradition of appreciation of the sublime in Nature. This is reflected by the literary contributions of the English Romantic poets (Wordsworth), American Transcendentalists (Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman) and the late 19th Century writings of the emerging preservationist movement (John Muir). An appreciation of the sublime in nature has long been valued as a necessary component of human physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, a position that has recently been advanced in Richard Louv's “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” Some connections with Earth are purely aesthetic (Kieffer, 2006) and inspire a sense of awe and wonder about the beauty of Nature (landscapes of Thomas Moran).
These many types of human connections with Earth can be used to our advantage in geoscience education. Edelson (2001) has identified two dominant motivators for learning: personal need and curiosity. Practical connections with Earth address personal or societal need (and perhaps enlightened self-interest can be invoked to encourage learning). Sublime connections with Earth reveal innate curiosity about Earth—how does this amazing planet work, and prompts deeper reflection about the appropriate role of humanity on Earth. In an Environmental Geology course, these connections are explored in a variety of activities such as the Lifestyle Project (Kirk and Thomas, 2003), Geology in the News, service learning, and topical debates. The On the Cutting Edge program has related resources connecting Geology and Human Health, Public Policy, and Teaching Urban Students: http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/index.html