Thesis Update: Eco-Art Education

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Hi, my name is Leena. I am an Art Education graduate student at CCNY. In the past, I have worked as a Pre-K substitute teacher, an art specialist at a summer camp, and a Marquis Studio’s assistant in an afterschool arts program in the Bronx. I love working with kids and hope to become an elementary art teacher once I graduate.

My thesis research is inspired by two things I am passionate about: art and the environment. For much of my life, though, these interests were pursued in independent ways. It wasn’t until taking the Critical Perspectives class at CCNY that I began realizing, through my own research, that art and environmental concerns can overlap. It was eye opening to discover that there are artists creating art not only about environmental concepts, but also in ways that offer solutions to environmental issues within their communities. Later that same year I was able to volunteer at the Wave Hill Family art program, where I saw first hand that art education and ecological awareness can successfully be integrated. This was an amazing experience for me, and it helped me to realize values I want my future teaching to reflect. I want to provide students with an education that will encourage them to develop their own understandings of the relationships that exist between the planet and themselves.

For my thesis I will be looking at the ways in which certain organizations are implementing eco-art education in New York City elementary school classes. I have been reading a lot of literature by art and environmental educator, Hilary Inwood, who says “Eco-art education integrates art education with environmental education as a means of developing awareness of and interaction with environmental concepts and issues, such as conservation, preservation, restoration and sustainability” (2008, p.58). One way that I will collect data involves observing classes taught by the organization, Cafeteria Culture. Their mission aims to creatively work towards achieving zero-waste school cafeterias and climate smart communities through education, arts, media and action.

I agree with Aldo Leopold (1968) who wrote, “It is inconceivable to me that an ethical relationship to land can exist without love, respect and admiration for the land, and a high regard for its value…The most serious obstacle impeding the evolution of a land ethic is the fact that our educational and economic system is headed away, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of land” (p. 223). Instead of heading away, I want to be an educator that embraces and encourages a consciousness of land.

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