Engaging Students’ Imaginations in Their World

It is becoming increasingly clear that our survival as a species depends on re-imagining our relationship with nature.  We need to cultivate ecological understanding – an awareness of our interconnectedness with the natural world based on particular knowledge and emotional connections with the local, natural world.  Unfortunately, current approaches to developing students’ ecological understanding, what might be described as ecological education, are missing the mark due, among other reasons, to a theoretical and practical neglect of the imagination. What can IEE offer those teachers/administrators/schools interested in cultivating ecological understanding amongst their students?

IEE aims to nurture students’ personal relationships with the natural and cultural contexts in which they live through frequent engagement of the body, emotion, and imagination in learning. To achieve this, the possibility for emotional and imaginative engagement offered by the cognitive tools approach as outlined in Kieran Egan’s theory of Imaginative Education (IE) is paired with focused attention on engaging the body and context. Unlike IE, however, this approach to education is ecological. Its aim is to engage students in the world around them. Learn about the three guiding principles of IEE.

IEE brings the emotional and imaginative engagement of the child to the center of theory and practice. By designing pedagogy around the distinctive features of students’ imaginative lives, IEE can more routinely engage the body, emotion and imagination in the local natural and cultural context in which students live and learn. This is a new approach to ecological education.  Because IEE is a cross-curricular approach to teaching suitable for students in elementary through secondary school in urban, sub-urban, or rural contexts, IEE makes it possible for the development of ecological understanding to take place alongside the fulfillment of curricular requirements.

A New Approach to Ecological Education

By Gillian Judson

image_miniA New Approach to Imaginative Ecological Education: Engaging Students’ Imaginations in Their World (New York, Peter Lang).

This book offers a major critique of current ecological education programs, and offers an imaginative alternative.

Dr. Gillian Judson teaches in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University, is a director of the Imaginative Education Research Group, and coordinator of Imaginative Education and Imaginative Ecological Education program initiatives. Her work focuses on the role of imagination in all learning contexts. As an educational consultant she investigates imaginative and ecological teaching practices, educational program design, educational change, and educational leadership. Her latest books include Imagination and the Engaged Learner: Cognitive Tools for the Classroom (2016), Engaging Imagination in Ecological Education: Practical Strategies For Teaching (2015), and A Walking Curriculum (2018). Follow her blog imaginED: education that inspires learners of all ages. Gillian’s webpage is here.


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