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When teachers lay the weight of the world's ecological problems on elementary students before they have fostered the kind of connectedness that underlies appropriate environmental education, they create a condition of fear and disempowerment called "ecophobia." The paper suggests that teachers must lead with emotional connectedness before they start to impose environmental issues on children. In childhood development there is a sensitive period for bonding with the earth. Between the ages of 4 and 7, the objective of environmental education should be empathy with the natural world, or "becoming" the natural world; between 7 and 11, the key notion is engagement with, and exploration of, the natural world; and from the ages of 11 to 14, the core idea becomes social action. How children express their developing relationship to place in the maps they draw of their home "turf" is explained, and various place-based curricula are described that focus on enhancing and building children's relationship to place. Included are finding and describing special places; making maps that focus on the important places in town; collecting things from the area being mapped; making "sound maps"; and a game in which students own property in a model village, create a government, and decide issues. These place-based projects allow children to develop a sense of purpose and identity, and provide the right scope and scale for them to approach the complicated social and ecological issues that will later confront them. (TD)

Descriptors: Child Development, Childhood Interests, Children, Conservation (Environment), Developmentally Appropriate Practices, Ecology, Elementary Education, Environmental Education, Instructional Innovation, Place Based Education, Relevance (Education), Student Projects

Autor: Sobel, David


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