Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 13: EDUCATION
Trustee EE Endorsement 1978


Forest and Limestone Creek at PMSS. (Photo: hhw)  [P1130799.jpg]


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 (EE) 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 environmentalism as one of its educational missions. There is consistency in the efforts through the years to raise the environmental awareness of all who work and attend Pine Mountain Settlement School’s programs.

Perhaps no one was as fully committed to the idea of complete immersion in the environmental education opportunities at the School as was Mary Rogers. The idea that environmental education was fundamental to civic responsibility began with the founders and was strengthened by various staff who foregrounded environmental education in multiple educational adventures. Attention to the environment has always been a part of the ethos of the School from its beginning.


While the fundamental ideas surrounding environmental education have always been part of the School, the foundation of a formal Environmental Education Program, conceived and promoted as part of the School mission, did not occur until the 1970s. From that early beginning, the School began to cast a wide net for incorporating environmental awareness into the regional schools and became a leader in the environmental education movement.

In the beginning, the Pine Mountain program sought to educate natural resource stewards of the future in the young students as well as to reach out to adults with a series of workshops and retreats that focused on the rich ecology of the School and its surrounding setting. The ideas put forward by the School EE staff 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 Kentucky standard course of study with extended hands-on experiences. It was a model that schools throughout Kentucky 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 its original educational conception begun by Mary Rogers, Peter Westover, and other early environmental education designers and instructors.

Following the formal institution of an Environmental Education programming in 1972 at Pine Mountain Settlement School, the EE programs soon reached out to over 3,000 children and adults each year through a series of on-site and residential programs for schools and in adult workshops that focused on a planned environmental education program. 


In 1978 a formal endorsement by the Trustees of the School was made for a program of Environmental Education at the School.


The Trustees of the Pine Mountain Settlement School, realizing the alienation that exists between many modern-day people and their natural environment, believe that the abundant natural resources of the Pine Mountain Settlement School should be put to use in a program of environmental education.

The goals and philosophy of the environmental education program are:

    1. to help visitors come “to see and respect the visible creation which mirrors the glory and the perfection of the invisible God. (Thomas Merton)
    2. to offer mountain students, young and old, the opportunity to learn from the earth and to understand and appreciate better the rich heritage of our region, and their role of responsible stewardship for its future.
    3. to give students from other regions an interpretation of our culture and natural environment through first-hand experiences. These experiences, which give deeper understanding of a person’s own attitudes, also provide a frame of reference with which to compare other environments.
    4. to present environmental education not as a single subject, but as an integral part of all subjects. We hope to help participants learn by involvement and discovery, rather than merely hearing and reading.

April 22, 1978


BIBLIOGRAPHY Pine Mountain Settlement School

“Green Book,” Cover. [ee_green_book_cover_2.jpg]

The Green Book, Teaching Ecological Concepts Outdoors, (1974) was the earliest roadmap of the Environmental Education program. It  provided lesson plans and a rationale for many of the activities associated with the specific modules of the environmental education program. 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 the changes in administration at the School, and the 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 took some of the early environmental education programs and expanded them into multiple hands-on experiences with the environment as well as with specific regional interests such as heritage seeds. medicinal plants, sustainable agriculture, weaving, blacksmithing, architectural restoration, canning, photography, and a myriad of other interests geared for both adults and children.

The Green Book continues to provide one of the best descriptions of the ongoing EE concepts and the practice 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.

The Green Book, 1972.

The physical campus of Pine Mountain Settlement is a natural environment. As a back-drop for an environmental education program, the campus could not be more exquisite and diverse. See Pine Mountain Settlement School Events for a listing of current programming and consult the archive as we add material from the previous years.


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GOVERNANCE 1977-1978 Philosophy of Pine Mountain Settlement School