Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 22: Environmental Education
Series 13: Education
TAGS: environmental education; Pine Mountain Settlement School; Harlan County, Kentucky; education; Mary Rogers; Peter Westover; Nat Kuykendall; civic responsibility; weaving; hiking; stream ecology; curriculum; standard course of study; public schools; sustainable agriculture;
Environmental Education programming at Pine Mountain began with the founding of the School. While not defined in the curriculum of the School, environmental education was introduced at every opportunity into the educational program. The discovery of the Native American dwelling and burial site at Indian Cliff, the discussion of the ancestral heritage of students from the region, landscaping and farming as part of the vocational training experience of students, and other related environmental experiences, were constant reminders to staff and students of their beautiful and fragile shared environment. Pine Mountain has always defined as one of its missions, to seek ways to raise the environmental awareness of all who worked and attended Pine Mountain Settlement. Perhaps no one was a fully committed to the idea of complete immersion in the environmental educational opportunities at the School as was Mary Rogers. The idea that environmental education was fundamental to civic responsibility has always been a part of the ethos of the School.
While the fundamental ideas surrounding environmental education have always been part of the School, the foundation of the formal Environmental Education Program was conceived and promoted as part of the School mission in the early1970s. From that early beginning, the School began to cast a wide net for incorporating environmental awareness into the regional schools. Ultimately the fully developed Environmental Education Program reached out to over 3,000 children and adults each year through a series of on-site and residential programs for schools and adult workshops that focused on a planned environmental education program.
In the beginning, the Pine Mountain program sought to educate natural resource stewards of the future in the young students as well as reach out to adults with a series of workshops and retreats that focused on the rich ecology of the School setting. The ideas put forward by the School were designed to bring children and adults to Pine Mountain where they would experience an introduction to good environmental stewardship through actual hands-on exercises. Whether walking a trail or engaging hiking expeditions, an afternoon of hands-on stream ecology, or a classroom talk on Native Americans, the environmental education staff opened the way for schools to incorporate the standard course of study with extended hands-on experiences. It was a model that schools throughout Kentuck soon emulated and wished to incorporate.
With the passage of time and the multiple intervening administrations, environmental education at the School has evolved and changed and waxed and waned. Yet, it has rarely strayed too far from the original educational conception begun by Mary Rogers, Peter Westover, and other early designers and instructors. The Green Book, Teaching Ecological Concepts Outdoors, provided lesson plans and rationale for many of the activities associated with the early environmental education programs. This guiding document has been re-written numerous time and is still evolving as it keeps pace with the changes in the Standard Course of Study required in the public schools and with contemporary issues related to the environment. The program has also expanded its base to include craft and creativity, with hands-on sessions in the weaving room, ceramics studio, woodwork shop, and other art and craft engagements. The expansion of workshops for adults takes some of the early environmental education programmings and expands it into multiple experiences with the environment as well as with specific interests such as heritage seeds. medicinal plants, sustainable agriculture, weaving, blacksmithing, architectural restoration, canning, photography, and a myriad of other interests geared for adults and children that use Pine Mountain’s natural environment as a back-drop. See Pine Mountain Settlement School Events for a listing of current programming.
The Green Book (1972) continues to provide one of the best descriptions of the ongoing concept of environmental education at Pine Mountain
Environmental education has come to mean many different things.
Sometimes, unfortunately, it has involved a separation of two kinds of learning: the learning of awareness and appreciation through the use of the senses; the learning of knowledge — specific truths — through experimentation.
We hope through this guide to help bring the two areas together and to stimulate the learning of additional skills such as that of effective communication. Through ecological concepts, one realizes that “awareness” is necessary not only for aesthetic appreciation but also for the understanding of concrete situations.
In THE GREEN BOOK we emphasize the importance of using concepts or frameworks, to understand the ways that plants, animals, water, soil, air, and people fit together. Each natural system “ecosystem” may be different, but most have underlying similarities. Unless we have a frame of reference for seeing those similarities, and unless we can see, describe, and differentiate among members of each ecosystem, (which plants, what kind of rock material, how big an animal population), we cannot understand how each affects the others.