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Part V. Engaged Learning
Road Map to Part V
Efforts to foster learning, especially in the formal educational context, fall short far too often. Not only do they fail to achieve the desired learning, they may even lead to avoidance of other learning opportunities. The chapters in this section are refreshing in showing ways to achieve engaged learning. In each of the chapters we find that the learning as well as engagement happen not only for the students but for the teachers as well.
Abram Kaplan shares his odyssey from teaching college courses the way they are so often taught to finding new ways of seeing and helping students to explore these as well. While photography offers a specific tool for the exploration, the story is compelling in developing how learning to see can ramify to enriching many experiences within the structured educational framework and beyond it.
Lori Kumler’s chapter is set in the context of secondary education where compartmentalization and standardization so often stand in the way of helping students to become engaged. As she shows, this is particularly disconcerting when we consider the roles these students will need to play as citizens in a world that requires civic engagement to address a multitude of problems. Engaged learning while in school can thus help generate the knowledge, experience, and motivation to become engaged members of the community in years to come.
The examples that Robert Grese provides show us that engaged learning can occur well beyond the classroom. The students in his landscape architecture courses learn by engaging community members; they learn that the process of participation informs design. And the children and adults who are the participants in these projects are also engaged learners as they learn to see their environment in new ways and find their views sought and respected.
While model building is an important dimension of the learning process, these chapters demonstrate that meaningful action plays a vital role as well. The projects described in each of these chapters make a difference to the students, as they become invested in the process and the outcome and can see that they play a meaningful role. The sense of competence and effectiveness that results from these projects goes much beyond what a grade or a score on a test achieve. These shared experiences have promises of many future impacts.
Chapter 17: Abram W. Kaplan, “Seeing, Engaging, and (Re)building Culture”
Our mental models are the result of a great deal of experience, but so many of our experiences, as Abram Kaplan shows, also constrain the way we experience. As such, many cultural patterns, including our dominant educational models, have guided us to see things in ways that blind us. Especially through his examples of using photography, Kaplan shows us ways we can learn to see much that is right before us. By doing so, we can engage more fully with each other as well as with what makes us more reasonable.
Chapter 18: Lori M. Kumler, “Environmental Civic Engagement for Secondary Classrooms: Why and How through the Reasonable Person Model Lens”
Lori Kumler shows us that despite the challenges of the current secondary curriculum, there are ways to incorporate opportunities for environmental civic engagement within the school system. Her examples show not only the feasibility but also the potential that such projects have for increasing student motivation and expanding their mental models about civic engagement. Furthermore, if the high school experience incorporates meaningful participation in addressing environmental issues, the likelihood is far greater that these youths will become engaged citizens.
Chapter 19: Robert E. Grese, “Engaging People in the Design of Landscapes”
Robert Grese’s chapter provides many examples of how participatory projects can be incorporated in the landscape architecture curriculum and, in the process, demonstrates multiple ways these small experiments serve to enrich the students’ mental models while also helping the participants to gain a richer understanding of what matters to them. Grese’s examples are also provocative for the ways in which the design students’ expertise can be disadvantageous. The degree to which children and teens can take meaningful part in the opportunities for participation is particularly inspiring.