国際教養学部国際教養学科 伊藤 毅 教授
Teaching the minds of young people is rewarding for teachers. It gives us hope for the future. For students, however, sitting quietly in the classroom to learn about something not only new but also completely separate from everyday life is a very different experience for many students. How can teachers encourage students to be attentive to and engage in urgent issues that are happening outside the classroom? How can college education provide students with life-long knowledge that prepares them to lead a meaningful life during and beyond their time in college? These are the questions with which I struggle in and outside the classroom.
Education can play an important role in addressing challenges that threaten human well-being and ecological integrity. Universities around the world have started to introduce new environmental education with the goal of raising awareness of the importance of environmental conservation. Yet, simply presenting hard facts and data about the state of the environment might not mean anything to most of us. As environmentalist David Orr (2004) argues, the state of environmental degradation is not caused by a lack of education; rather is a result of standardized education that “emphasizes theories, not values; abstraction rather than consciousness; neat answers instead of questions; and technical efficiency over conscience.” It is important for educators to develop innovative learning methods that trigger curiosity and creativity, transforming students’ perspectives on how a meaningful life shapes and is shaped by nature-human relations.
With this in mind, John Williams of the English Department and I co-developed a new course Meaningful Life: Art, Digital, and Field-based Learning. The course employs a new pedagogy that combines art, digital, and field methods. This new pedagogy immerses students in a local environment where they interact with humans and nonhumans–i.e., understanding how people work with one another in the community, noticing changes in the local fauna and flora, knowing our place in the watershed, and being sensitive to the way food arrives on our plates. In doing so, students discover new values in environmental ethics, decency, reciprocity, and public service that are part of the solutions for contemporary urgent issues such as climate change.