Where I’m Headed (or so I think):
I want to teach people how to learn a place. We can call it bioregionalism, landscape studies, interdisciplinary studies, experiential, regionalism; regardless of what we call it, I want to teach it. I want to offer students the opportunity to become critical thinkers, invested, and knowledgeable (spiritually, creatively, and scientifically) of a place. It is understood that when teaching students to be citizens of place, disciplinary depth is not expected; rather a broad breadth of synthesis is the ultimate goal.
I want to teach students to become members of a place by learning everything about it: geology, politics, flora, fauna, sociology, current issues, human history, culture, natural resources, and more: how the place works and functions as one community interwoven together. I want students to understand the cyclic nature of place; creation and loss. I want students to witness an intense consciousness of land and it’s relation with the human community. I want to teach them to ask articulate, relevant and purposeful questions to the right people about a place to quickly gain insights of the place.
Gary Snyder, Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, Ann Zwinger, Annie Dillard, Katie Lee, Terry Tempest Williams, and many others exemplify this way of being. This being, embodied by watching, listening, asking, engaging in, contributing, participating and ultimately loving a place.
Just like with a lover or friend, we strive to find what it is that makes that person so uniquely special. We want to figure out what is so neat about who the other person is being. I want to help students discover the unique characteristics and personality of their place and form a rich relationship with it.
I want to foster an appreciation for the many complex and interdisciplinary possibilities for making sense of a place. I want to create an understanding for residents’ relationship with the land. I want students to leave my class/program empowered with the skills, knowledge, and self esteem they need to participate (civically and practically) in their place wherever that place might be. In this day and age of transient global lifestyle and a lack of a true homeplace for many, learning to live in place will give students the opportunity to find a sense of home and a relationship with the land and community wherever they may end up living.
I have all kinds of ideas on how to embody this yearning to teach others how to form a relationship with place. I’ve dreamt up a book based on the idea of how to become a local in only two weeks. This book would be written for seasonal naturalists/environmental educators who are always moving around and are charged with teaching the place to their students/visitors. I can imagine teaching an intensive landscape study semester course for college students similar to the Grand Canyon Semester at NAU that I participated in 6 years ago. I’ve thought of a similar course for high school or college students. And I’m guessing that there are many other possibilities out there that I am unfamiliar with or are yet to be created.And so I ask… how do I best do this? Where do I go from here? What organization/school/program do I work for? How do I get paid for this? Who is looking to hire someone like me with this passion for teaching about place? Is there somehow I could do this here locally in the Roaring Fork Valley or in Western Colorado? Do I need a master’s degree to do this? What area of study would the master's be in? Who would pay for my schooling if so?