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Samantha Melvin Research Brief June 15, 2014 Ecological Action through Art Education Making A Difference The work that I created reflects my life-long concern for the environment. I have always been thinking of how art communicates messages. This piece includes a work I created in 1982, when I was in high school. It demonstrates my concern for the poaching of elephants in Africa. Here, I collaged the piece with other materials and words in order to expand on our collective responsibility to act. Whether it is due to poaching or encroaching on habitats, we are affecting wildlife around the globe. Just talking about doing something for the environment and for endangered species is not enough. The list of endangered and extinct creatures continues to grow. We have been neglectful of the cycle of life, and we must pay attention. How can we make a global statement? I created this work while on a flight from Texas to California. The carbon footprint of my trip, not including the travel to and from work for those who work for the airplane company, and airport employees involved in my flight, has already made an impact, and I still need to get home. We are all moving about, using transportation of all kinds, moving from one place to another, expanding our cities, using resources, and taking our environment mostly for granted. The butterflies in the work are symbols of transformation, they demonstrate change is possible. We need to listen, we need to watch, we need to learn, and we need to act. Reducing Threats to Wildlife and Ecosystems The National Wildlife Federation was founded by Ding Darling in 1936, with the assistance from President Franklin Roosevelt, who gathered hunters, anglers and conservationists to the first annual North American Wildlife Conference in Washington, D.C. “Darling dreamed of a federation promoting conservation interests, encouraging social diversity, and demanding action from Congress� (National Wildlife Federation, 2014). What evolved was the organized and unified vision for conservation in the United States. The new vision for the 21st century connects with the children of the future. Using technology, programs for schools, and schoolyard habitats, the National Wildlife Federation engages a new generation of


conservationists. Its vision endeavors to create programs that accept “varying attitudes, values, and beliefs, while encouraging an integrated and collaborative approach to conservation, promot[ing] lifelong learning and growth” (National Wildlife Federation, 2014). The federation cooperates with state affiliates to help promote place based conservation efforts and alert the public of endangered species from state to state. Capturing Our Students’ Attention We can foster an ecology of place by expanding and deepening all areas of concern within the art classroom to “include not just the personal, individual sphere in the present, but widen our appreciation and care to non-human life, the past and future... and other world views” (Gradle, 2007, p. 407). As our students focus on different concerns regarding the environment, we can assist by facilitating hands-on art projects that are shared with the larger community, both locally and globally, in order to spread the word, and that can demonstrate that they care (Noddings, 2005). By sharing these works, and communicating with others, we engage others in dialogue over shared concerns. Starting locally, “a critical pedagogy about place also has activist, transformative purposes focused on social change, community involvement, service, and environmental responsibility” (Graham, 2007, p. 380). Children learn about poaching, encroachment on habitats, and endangered species. They have access to more information about local, state and national efforts to improve environmental conditions. They can learn to dig around, find ways to help and make a difference. References Gradle, S. (2007). Ecology of place: Art education in a relational world. Studies in Art Education, 48(4), 392- 411. Graham, M. (2007). Art, ecology and art education: Locating art education in a critical place-based pedagogy. Studies in Art Education, 48(4), 375-391. National Wildlife Federation. (website) Retrieved on June 14, 2014 from http://www.nwf.org/Who-We-Are/History-and-Heritage/NWF-Today.aspx Noddings, N. (2005). The Challenge to care in schools: An Alternative approach to education. Teachers College Press, New York, NY.

Ecological Action through Art Education  

This research brief explores the opportunity we have in the art classroom to foster an ecology of place as a means to engage students in env...