Ecological literacy is measured by a person's ability to understand the natural systems that make life on earth possible and how to live in accordance with those systems. The emergence of the pedagogies of place- and community-based education during the past two decades provides a possible avenue for fostering ecological literacy in schools. This thesis explores the following research questions: 1) How is ecological literacy fostered in two Alaskan public charter schools? 2) What are teachers' beliefs in these two schools about the way children and youth develop ecological literacy? 3) What are effective teaching methods and what are the challenges in engaging students in ecological literacy? Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six K-12 teachers in two public charter schools in Alaska in order to investigate these questions, and relevant examples of student work were collected for study as well. Qualitative data analysis revealed several emergent themes: the need for real-world connections to curriculum; the necessity of time spent outdoors at a young age; the long-term and holistic nature of ecological literacy development; and the importance of family and community role models in developing connections with the natural world. Based upon the research findings, several recommendations are made to support the efforts of teachers in these schools and elsewhere for fostering ecological literacy in children and youth.
Thesis (M.Ed.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2015
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