Open Access

Teaching and Learning in Nearby Nature

Photograph by Holly A. Senn

This essay also appears in the issue “Teaching Contemplative Environments” (Volume 4, Number 1). Click here to subscribe and download the entire issue


Conceptual Framework: Learning in Nearby Nature

Parks and public green spaces can support exploration, restoration, and meaningful action. Kaplan, Kaplan, and Ryan define nearby nature as:

“The settings we emphasize are not the wild and awesome, distant and dramatic, lush and splendid. Rather, the emphasis is on the everyday, often unspectacular, natural environment that is, or ideally would be, nearby. Nearby nature includes parks and open spaces, street trees, vacant lots, and backyard gardens, as well as fields and forests. Included are places that range from tiny to quite large, from visible through the window to more distant, from carefully managed to relatively neglected.”1

Nearby nature sites can foster engagement and exploration by balancing coherence (having a sense of pathway and/or order) with complexity (having depth and richness), and balancing legibility (having memorable features that help with orientation) with mystery (or the sense that there is more to explore).2 Nearby nature helps humans recover from mental fatigue and information overload. Restorative environments create a sense of being away, as well as a sense of immersion in a whole different world.3 Finally, nearby nature sites can help visitors engage in meaningful actions ranging from observing, wondering, and exploring to voting and stewardship4

Living mindfully and developing the skill of observant quiet requires engaging in daily practices to disengage from our contemporary consumer economy and the stress of urban life.5 We can each make choices to intentionally develop awareness of nearby nature and to honor and appreciate the complex interconnections within ecosystems. As Haupt observes, “Attending to the world more closely, we are inspired to act instead from a sense of love, interconnection, and a recognition of mutual strength and fragility.”6 We can reorient our focus to our relationship with soil, air, water, and all living beings.

Experiential education opportunities in nearby nature can help students live mindfully and reflect on academic learning, civic engagement, and personal growth. The Environmental Policy and Decision Making program at the University of Puget Sound has intentionally designed courses to connect students to local environmental resources and stakeholders. I developed and taught a .25-unit weekend mini-course, “Learning in Nearby Nature,” to encourage students to interact with former industrial sites that were redesigned as earthworks, parks, or public walkways.

Re-envisioned industrial sites are contexts for environmental education because they are sites that invite consideration of the processes of social and environmental transformation.7 These sites are environments that provide a context for critical inquiry into what Plumwood calls “the unique interwoven pattern of nature and culture which makes up the story of place.”8 While human activity and natural history have jointly shaped the land, terms like “nature,” “landscape,” “environment,” and “wilderness” can evoke thinking about ecologies as separate from, rather than intersected with, human activity. In contrast, terms like “urban,” “constructed,” “pollution,” and “waste” can draw attention to how we define (and redefine) what is nature and what is culture, as we work to “challenge and undermine traditional ways of conceiving the ‘natural.’”9 Engaging re-envisioned industrial sites supports us in asking, “What is it that we, the human inhabitants, require of our bit of land?” and “What does the land, and the region, need from us?”10

Purposeful Selection of Nearby Nature Sites

I purposefully selected five nearby nature sites to encourage students to consider how they view and define nature and culture, and how both human actions and natural forces shape landscapes. In order to foster depth of exploration and reflection, I selected sites that make visible contrasting approaches to restoration of degraded landscapes. As Spirn writes,

“All landscapes are constructed. Garden, forest, city, and wilderness are shaped by rivers and rains, plants and animals, human hands and minds. They are phenomena of nature and products of culture. There is always a tension in the landscape between reality and autonomy of the nonhuman and its cultural construction, between the human impulse to wonder at the wild and the compulsion to use, manage, and control. Landscapes of city and wilderness represent poles of a continuum in the history and intensity of human intervention.”11

Earthworks Explored

The class spent one day exploring two earthworks located in Kent, Washington: the Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks and the Robert Morris Earthwork. These sites are important examples of how land art can create awareness about human land use; one is a park and storm water runoff control system and the other is a former gravel pit redesigned into a four-acre earthwork sculpture.

Waterway Parks Explored

The class spent a second day exploring three nearby nature sites in Tacoma, Washington constructed in response to severe environmental degradation. In 1983 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated 12 square miles of Tacoma water, shoreline, and land as the Commencement Bay/Nearshore Tideflats Superfund Site. The Superfund site includes multiple environmentally degraded sites, including the former Asarco smelter site (Ruston, Washington) and the Thea Foss Waterway (Tacoma, Washington). Thea’s Park, Dickman Mill Park, and the Waterwalk at Point Ruston are three sites that demonstrate a range of responses to rehabilitating land and waterways impacted by human use and development. We explored these three parks along the seven-mile “Dome to Defiance” initiative. The City of Tacoma plans to create continuous public waterway access from downtown to Pt. Defiance, the city’s largest park. Thea’s Park contrasts views of the Port of Tacoma industrial businesses with vistas of the Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier. Dickman Mill Park contrasts the concrete remains of a former lumber mill with a human-designed wetland. The Waterwalk contrasts a residential and commercial development and a public pathway, both built on the former site of a copper smelter, with vistas of Puget Sound. In Figure 1, I describe the nearby nature sites visited.

Figure 1: Nearby Nature Sites

Earthworks Explored

Robert Morris Earthwork (Kent, Washington). Photograph by Holly A. Senn.

Robert Morris Earthwork (Kent, Washington): Former gravel and sand pit redesigned as a four-acre public art earthwork with a series of descending concentric terraces planted with rye grass.

Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks (Kent, Washington). Photograph by Holly A. Senn.

Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks (Kent, Washington): Former park with erosion problem redesigned as a storm water runoff system and park. The design includes a concrete dam, conical landforms, a double ring pond, Mill Creek, and a sedimentation basin for excess runoff.

Waterway Parks Explored

Thea’s Park (Tacoma, Washington). Photograph by Holly A. Senn.

Thea’s Park (Tacoma, Washington): Former Superfund site redesigned as a park at
the entrance of the Foss Waterway. The public esplanade and moorage float face views of the port’s industrial businesses, Puget Sound, and Mt. Rainier.

Dickman Mill Park (Tacoma, Washington). Photograph by Holly A. Senn.

Dickman Mill Park (Tacoma, Washington): Former lumber mill site redesigned as a park with a human designed wetland.

Waterwalk (Tacoma & Ruston, Washington). Photograph by Holly A. Senn.

Waterwalk (Tacoma & Ruston, Washington): Former copper smelter site redesigned as a .75-mile public walkway and residential and commercial development.

Fostering a Culture of Reflection

In this section I make my teaching practices public by documenting how I intentionally fostered a culture of reflection and contemplation. When reflection is integrated purposefully and continuously, students are encouraged to question their fundamental assumptions about the world, to weigh alternative points of view, and to use conflict and surprises to engage complexity and develop reflective judgment skills.12

I framed course questions in relation to conceptual models about learning in nearby nature. The class explored purposefully selected sites with these framing questions in mind:

  • How does the nearby nature setting promote exploration and understanding, a sense of restoration, and/or meaningful action?
  • How do I make connections to my life experiences as I engage in a nearby nature setting?
  • What is the match or mismatch between a site’s educational and architectural design intentions and visitor perceptions and experiences?

I also designed consistent participation routines to encourage students to connect previous and new experiences, to meaningfully debrief, and to consider how their perspectives had changed.13 Below I describe intentionally aligned learning experiences14 such as community member speakers, readings, a reflection journal, discussion formats, and a reflective essay assignment.

Experiential education is most impactful when students engage real-world challenges, develop the skills of reflective observation, consider the intersections between theory and practice, and discuss ethical dilemmas in a range of social contexts and relationships.15

Engagement with Community Members

Each class day, one speaker from the local community (Day 1: a director for a local art non-profit and Day 2: a supervisor for the local park district) shared background information about the sites, described preservation efforts, and discussed the tensions of serving as stewards for public space. These hour-long sessions provided a framing focus for the day and introduced students to people who work every day to preserve and restore nearby nature sites.

Reading Landscapes and Reading Texts

Before exploring nearby nature sites, students discussed multiple pairs of contrasting photographs of landscapes. Discussing different perspectives about the landscapes gave students an opportunity to make visible their assumptions about what they perceive as a nature and to apply course frameworks to the images by sharing how different landscapes create a sense of wonder or restoration. This discussion prepared students to be observant and thoughtful during site explorations. I made purposeful decisions about readings, working to balance academic and experiential engagement. I selected texts that provided conceptual frameworks about nearby nature, framed the tension between “nature” and “culture,” and/or served as models of a reflective essay. A copy of the course calendar with assigned readings is included in Appendix A.

Reflection Journal

To create one location for students to record drawings, thoughts, questions, and insights, I made journals of folded letter-sized paper. The three framing course questions were reproduced on the journal’s cover. To support student reflection when exploring alone or when sharing in small groups, I included additional reflection questions inside the journal. During our first class session, to make initial assumptions about nearby nature visible, students wrote in their journals about why they were taking the class and described a nearby nature site that held meaning for them. Throughout the day, as we explored nearby nature sites (e.g., after a speaker, after visiting a park, before and/or after discussion groups), students recorded key insights and questions.

In course evaluations students noted that the journals were a useful learning tool and that they appreciated them as their own private space for recording developing thoughts.

Using a Range of Exploration and Talk Formats

Throughout the course, I used a range of exploration and talk formats. For example, at the nearby nature sites I asked students to draw or write about initial impressions, engage in individual or pair exploration, count off (myself included) into discussion groups of 4 to 8 people, or gather as a full class for discussion. This created different participation structures for reflection (writing vs. talking, and individual vs. small group vs. larger group). Organizing time in this way also deepened exploration by helping individuals and the group as whole slow down, observe, discuss, revisit, and reflect.

Reflective Essay

The final assignment for the class was a reflective essay in which students selected one nearby nature site to consider in depth by describing the site, making connections to course readings, and sharing personal reflections. Students brought drafts of their essays to the final class session for peer feedback. Revised essays were posted to an internal campus blog; each student read one colleague’s reflection and posted a commentary on it, facilitating ongoing reflection within community.

In course evaluations students highlighted important learning opportunities for engaging multiple perspectives and for developing reflective judgment, including: the intentionally chosen contrasting nearby nature sites, hearing community members’ reflections, writing in journals, and reflective discussions in pairs, small groups, and whole class.

Tensions in Student Reflections

In this section I reflect on the patterns I noticed in the students’ reflective essays. I situate excerpts of their reflections in relation to the questions and insights that their reflections sparked in my own thinking. My goal here is to make visible how the act of reflection deepened student and teacher learning.

Consistent with other studies of informal learning environments,16 each of the 19 students in the Learning in Nearby Nature course had different and highly personalized reactions to the sites visited. As Cronon highlights, “What each of us finds here, in other words, is not One Universal Nature but the many different natures that our cultures and histories have taught us to look for and find.”17 Although individual students made different connections to, and had different reactions about, nearby nature sites, two important themes in student reflections emerged. First, students found a new appreciation for nearby urban parks and green spaces, often rethinking the idea that one must visit “wilderness” in order to experience a connection to nature. Second, students considered how humans both love and abuse nature and debated whether restoration efforts should focus on restoring sites or leaving visible evidence of past environmental degradation.

Newfound Appreciation for Nearby Nature

Below are two representative student reflections about finding new appreciation for nearby nature. Even as both students express appreciation for the restorative power of nearby nature, they grapple with defining nature. Both use quotation marks to signal the contested definitions of terms like “wild” and “nature preference.” They view wild spaces as being “far off,” having “physical separation from,” or being “isolated.” They compare nearby nature sites to their previous experiences in other generalized settings such as “vast forested lands” or “undeveloped shorelines,” or to specific places such as Napa Valley or the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

These kinds of reflections affirm my decision to focus class exploration on nearby nature sites to help students engage the concepts of nature, urban, and wilderness. Reading the following reflections critically, I’m considering additional ways I can support students in defining and interrogating terms like “wild,” “urban,” “park,” “undeveloped.” I’d like to use Spirn’s framing of city and wilderness as “poles of a continuum in the history and intensity of human intervention” more intentionally.18

The first reflection expresses how nearby nature spaces can create a sense of community connection and restoration, even as the student states a continued preference for wild nature:

Historically, I have sought restoration through connectedness with nature in far off mountain trails, vast forested lands, and undeveloped shorelines. I felt, and to some extent do still feel, like a physical separation from the place, city, or people who constantly demand my directed attention and a sojourn into the “wild” is necessary for my personal restoration. Throughout the course of this class however, I realized that nearby nature settings can provide that restored feeling and activate an effortless attention to the natural realm for me and others alike by promoting exploration, place-based understandings, artistic appreciation and community connectedness. The degree, type and extent of this restoration may vary from place to place and park to park but the impact nearby nature settings have on their visitors are overall restorative nonetheless. (Excerpt from Reflective Essay written by Rita McCreesh)

Reading this reflection with generosity, I note that the student reflects on her personal preferences for restorative environments, validates the restorative impact of nearby nature sites, makes connections to concepts in course reading about directed versus effortless attention, and highlights the uniqueness of different places and parks. Reading this reflection with skepticism, I wonder how she conceptualizes similarities and differences between far off trails, forests, and shoreline versus parks and other nearby nature sites.

The second reflection expresses a sense of surprise as this student reevaluates his perspective on wild nature versus and a park. The student values and personally connects with the restorative nature and rich history of an urban park:

Prior to the course, I swore by my own “nature preference” of isolated wilderness, typically miles away from city life. Originally, I was skeptical that I could feel anything close to awe, adventure, and easement that I feel when exploring in the Napa Valley or the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, at the parks we would visit in Kent and Tacoma. My experience on the “Dome to Defiance” walk caused me to reevaluate my stance on nature places. Through a combination of the walk’s restorative aesthetic, points of exploration, rich history and personal connection I felt I understood and connected with the urban park much more than before. Honestly, this came as somewhat of a surprise to me because of my passion for more “wild” areas. (Excerpt from Reflective Essay written by Cameron Wallenbrock)

Reading this reflection with generosity, I note that the student, to his own surprise, experienced a deeper connection to an urban park, and as he reflects he contrasts the “Dome to Defiance” parks with specific landscapes he and his family have explored. Reading this reflection with skepticism, I wonder if he has engaged other possible meanings of wilderness than “isolated” and “miles away from city life.”

It is common for Americans to idealize isolated nature settings. Cronon highlights how Americans often idealize pristine wilderness and devalue nearby nature in urban settings:

“American ways of thinking about wilderness encourage us to adopt too high a standard for what counts as ‘natural.’ If it isn’t hundreds of square miles big, if it doesn’t give us God’s-eye views or grand vistas, if it doesn’t permit us the illusion that we are alone on the planet, then it really isn’t natural. It’s too small, too plain, or too crowded to be authentically wild.”19

These reflections from students suggest that this “wilderness” conception of nature is permeable and that appreciation of nature embedded within local urban communities can also provide a sense of awe, authentic personal connection, and restoration.

Move On or Remember

Exploring nearby nature sites that demonstrate a range of responses to rehabilitating land and waterways impacted by human use and development gave students the opportunity to consider the tension between using and abusing landscapes and debate whether restoration efforts should focus on moving on (by restoring sites to some biological ideal), or remembering (by leaving evidence of past environmental degradation). Students learned how different communities can take purposeful actions to restore and maintain nearby nature sites and how different approaches to restoration make visible different values.

Below I highlight three different ways that students described moving on or remembering: (1) by being conscious of inflictions and maintaining appreciation for degraded sites, (2) by valuing natural forces and human actions, and (3) by asking moral questions.

Being Conscious of Inflictions and Maintaining Appreciation

The student reflection below illustrates how students engaged the tension of restoration and remembering. Her questions highlight humans’ contradictory relationships with nature. She wonders how to balance the values of improved park functionality with making visible human abuse of nature:

When we consider areas such as Mill Creek Canyon or the parks along Ruston Way, these places offer us both benefits for functionality and our wellbeing. As humans we take advantage of these spaces because they offer resources and we seek out these parks because they are simply aesthetically pleasing. These spaces provide opportunity for exploration, restoration and meaning. However, do we cover up our abuse and neglect of nature by implementing elements of comfort and functionality? Is it insensitive of us to make these areas so nice? Should we refocus our attention away from park benches and shed more light on the underlying ugliness of nature? I fear that if we entirely refocused our attention to the unattractive portions of parks we would decrease our appreciation for these areas and inevitably disregard them altogether. This means we must strive for a balance of being informative and conscious of our inflictions, while maintaining a sense of appreciation. My observations, readings and reflections during this class have given me insights into this deeply complex and contractive dynamic we have with nature. In all honesty it has caused me some uncomfortable cognitive dissidence; how is it that I can concurrently love and abuse nature? (Excerpt from Reflective Essay written by Karine McCulloch)

I appreciate how this student engages a cycle of questioning to explore her own (and humankind’s) contradictory relationship to nature, reflected in her use of the terms “deeply complex” and “uncomfortable cognitive dissidence.” Her questions suggest active engagement with vexing questions about using versus abusing nature and finding appreciation for landscapes impacted by human abuse and neglect.

Valuing Natural Forces and Human Actions

The two student reflections below illustrate different stances toward restoration. Both students consider whether and how nature can be renewed, or “come back” and note their awareness of different value systems.

In considering the Robert Morris Earthwork, the first reflection questions the goals of land restoration. The student notes how the City of Kent and the artist Robert Morris prioritized historical connectedness over ecosystem functioning:

This piece felt reverent to me, as if the wound of industry left on the earth’s crust here was still healing, maybe even destined to never fully healing at all. . . . I asked myself, how could this art piece be an act of land restoration when it does not aim to revert the landscape back to a state in which it is beginning to come back into balanced natural ecosystem function? Granted, I know that my own environmental and scientifically based ideologies regarding the natural world exist at the root of this question. But, as Cath Brunner presented to our group here, she was not referring to restoration of this industrially ravaged landscape in any ways that I could liken to the environmental mitigation and natural systems thinking that I practice in my primary studies. Instead, Brunner spoke of a conjunctive place-making effort happening here to turn an abandoned gravel quarry into an artistic place that elicits restorative responses, like those discussed by Kaplan and Kaplan, in its visitors. By hiring Morris to come here and transform this land into public art, the city of Kent, Washington exhibited a deeply-rooted value for historical connectedness, contemplation and place-making that too often goes unrecognized in public policy. (Excerpt from Reflective Essay written by Rita McCreesh)

I appreciate how this student considers her own frames of reference, as a science major and environmental policy and decision-making minor, shape the question she poses about the earthwork. She deeply considers the comments of the class speaker (the art director charged with managing the earthworks) to reconsider how public policy might privilege scientific and ecological perspectives over artistic and historical perspectives.

In considering Dickman Mill Park, the second reflection highlights how the contrast of a human designed wetland, with a concrete ruin of a lumber mill, provides a sense of reclamation and hope. The student engages different perspectives by considering his views in relation to those of environmental activist groups. He highlights the long timeline needed to assess whether or not reclamation projects are successful:

The contrast of the apparent natural state of Puget Sound alongside a ruin of industry created an incredibly powerful experience for me. On one hand, it demonstrated that human presence is only temporary. This is something that I found strangely reassuring. It was comforting to see how nature was able to begin to reclaim something that it once lost. No matter how much we as human beings want to suppress and utilize nature for our own purposes, complete eradication is impossible. It seems to me that nature will always find a way to reclaim an environment. I know that my opinion can be very controversial for many activist groups who feel that the natural environment is in imminent danger. After an enlightening experience, I would argue that the ruins of Dickman Mill argue the opposite. There are effects of heavy industry that do have a lasting impact; the point of this paper is not to dispute that fact. The argument I am making is simply that in the end nature will always reclaim what once was its. . . . Restoration and reclamation projects in the Tacoma area, and elsewhere around the world, cannot be feasibly expected to yield results within one life time. . . . We might never see a completely restored wetland environment within the park, but we can do our best to set up the area for success. The park inspired me to dig a little deeper into my own past and assess how I have treated nature. The story of the location of Dickman Mill Park at first appeared to be one of tragedy. But as I began to feel the parks presence around me, I discovered within myself that it was actually a story of hope. Nature is going to retake its hold on the location eventually. All we need to do is give it the foothold it needs to start. (Excerpt from Reflective Essay written by Jacob Kwasman)

This student considers temporary human presence, and the lasting impact of heavy industry, in relation to a hopeful story of restoration. His reflection engages questions of time and ethical action in the face of the lasting impacts of pollution, which he later names an “epic struggle” between natural forces and human actions. This reflection is reminiscent of Schneiderman’s call to be mindful of the eternal present and to awaken human beings to violence that is difficult to see in the overlapping and continuous scales of time—historical time, geologic time, timelessness, and the present time; she writes, “all over the Earth we have the repetition to infinity of the same phenomenon: creation—destruction—new creation. Events, moments, movements.”20

Engaging Moral Questions

In considering the Robert Morris Earthwork, the following reflection highlights how nearby nature sites can encourage us to consider moral questions about our relationships to land. The student’s reflections highlight that all reclamation projects involve decisions about whether and how the past will be remembered:

[Morris’s] understanding that as an artist, he was making not only aesthetic choices but also moral choices especially touched me. It is clear in his writing that he understood that as an artist he had a tremendous responsibility in deciding how he would design this space that was abused by man for a very long time. Just as we had to do when we visited the space, Morris was constantly asking himself moral questions. He had an incredibly important role as the artist because he decided how the past would be remembered. Morris wanted to create an artwork that would relive the tension of industrial changes entering nature. He is showing the abuse of the land and making all of us ask very moral questions. Land that once served a technological purpose (extract and export gravel) now is used to serve a social purpose. It has become a place where people go to ask moral questions about what used to be and what is now. Looking over a very residential area, the hole in the ground is proof of a space changed over time. There is proof of both how human has manipulated nature and how human has designed nature. I think that there is always a tension between what we do to our places and how we might reclaim them. (Excerpt from Reflective Essay written by Angelica Spearwoman)

This student focuses her reflection on the importance of asking “moral questions.” She evaluates the Robert Morris Earthwork for the ways in which it demonstrates the contrast between how human actions both abuse and reclaim landscapes. Her reflection engages a deep sense of history and purpose as communities decide how the past should be remembered.

Reading the students’ reflections skeptically, I reflect on additional ways I can support them in critically examining different values perspectives and the long-term, often invisible, impacts of human actions. Future coursework might introduce the concept of “slow violence” in conversation with the idea that nature can be renewed. Slow violence refers to violent acts, like releasing toxins into the environment, that are difficult for humans to perceive, “either because they are geographically remote, too vast or too minute in scale, or are played out across a time span that exceeds the instance of observation or even psychological life of the human observer.”21 In addition, future course questions could go beyond theories of learning in informal learning environments to explicitly examine environmental degradation and renewal.

Discussion

Former industrial sites, redesigned as public spaces, are powerful contexts for investigating social and environmental transformation and for forging connections between human activity and natural forces. In students’ written essays I saw that students viewed nearby nature sites in relation to their conceptions of nature and wilderness. This is not surprising, given that throughout time humans have told varied narratives about nature. For example, idealizing sublime wilderness and pastoral countryside over cities and industrial sites or framing human actions as resulting in paradise lost or paradise regained. Cronon advocates against these kinds of dualisms:

“Idealizing a distant wilderness too often means not idealizing the environment in which we actually live, the landscape that for better or worse we call home. Most of our most serious environmental problems start right here, at home, and if we are to solve those problems, we need an environmental ethic that will tell us as much about using nature as about not using it. The wilderness dualism tends to cast any use as ab-use, and thereby denies us a middle ground in which responsible use and non-use might attain some kind of balanced, sustainable relationship.”22

Future iterations of the course could integrate Spirn’s concept of a continuum of human actions23 as one framework for reflection to disrupt the dualisms of nature/culture, paradise lost/paradise gained, and wilderness/nearby nature. Mindfulness in nearby nature creates a sense of connection and relationship to the world around us and reduces mental fatigue and overload. Students described the benefits of reflective practice in daily life by noting their connection to place, reevaluating their perspectives, and appreciating nearby nature: “I began to feel the parks presence around me”; “human presence is only temporary. This is something that I found strangely reassuring”; “caused me to reevaluate my stance on nature places”; and “exhibited a deeply-rooted value for historical connectedness, contemplation and place-making that too often goes unrecognized in public policy.”

As illustrated in these reflections, course learning experiences supported students in appreciating nearby nature sites, even as they grappled with contrasts between their conceptions of wilderness and nearby nature. Students shared “a mature optimism, one that recognizes fully the daunting ecological outlook for the earth, while maintaining our human obligation to live with awareness, and respect, and joy.”24 Through reflective practice, students engaged humanity’s conflicting relationships to nature by considering the tensions of use and abuse, moving on and remembering, and appreciation and neglect. As a result of the class, students identified hopeful actions they could take, ranging from asking moral questions, to reconsidering their beliefs about nature and actions of abuse and remediation, to self-assessing how they engage with, and treat, nature.


Acknowledgements: My deep appreciation to Jacob Kwasman, Rita McCreesh, Karine McCulloch, Angelica Spearwoman, and Cameron Wallenbrock, who granted me permission to include their reflections on learning in nearby nature in this work. Thanks to Holly Senn, Joe Flessa, and Chris Kline for providing thoughtful and critical feedback on evolving versions of this work. A University of Puget Sound John Lantz Sabbatical Enhancement Award supported the development of the Learning in Nearby Nature course.


Amy E. Ryken is the dean and a professor in the School of Education at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. She studies teach- er learning and partnerships that foster connections between schools and community resources such as outdoor environments, museums, and work- places. She is the author of the Environment and Learning blog, where she explores learning in informal learning environments.


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Notes

  1. Rachel Kaplan, Stephen Kaplan, & Robert L. Ryan, With People in Mind: Design and Management of Everyday Nature (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1998), 1.
  2. Rachel Kaplan & Stephen Kaplan, “Preference, Restoration, and Meaningful Action in the Context of Nearby Nature,” in Urban Place: Reconnecting with the Natural World, edited by Peggy F. Barlett, 271-298, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005).
  3. Kaplan, Kaplan, & Ryan, With People in Mind, 1998.
  4. Kaplan & Kaplan, “Preference, Restoration, and Meaningful Action in the Context of Nearby Nature,” 2005.
  5. Lyanda Lynn Haupt, The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013).
  6. Haupt, The Urban Bestiary, 305.
  7. Amy E. Ryken, “The legacy of lumber mills,” Environment and Learning (March 2015), retrieved from http://www.environment-learning.com/2015/03/15/legacy-of-lumber-mills/.
  8. Val Plumwood, “The Concept of a Cultural Landscape: Nature, Culture and Agency in the Land,” Ethics & the Environment, 11, no. 2 (2006): 141.
  9. Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World, Artistic and Educational Aims and Programs, retrieved from http://www.ccanw.co.uk.
  10. Haupt, The Urban Bestiary, 302.
  11. Anne Whiston Spirn, “Constructing Nature: The Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted,” in Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature, ed. William Cronon (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1995), 113.
  12. Janet Eyler, (2002). “Reflection: Linking Service and Learning—Linking Students and Communities,” Journal of Social Issues 58, no. 3 (2002): 517-534.
  13. Jeb Schenck & JJessie Cruckshank, “Evolving Kolb: Experiential Education in the Age of Neuroscience,” Journal of Experiential Education 38, no. 1(2015): 73-95.
  14. Grant Wiggins, & Jay McTighe, Understanding by Design (Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1998), 7-19.
  15. Laurin Hodge, Karen L. Proudford, & Harry Holt, “From Periphery to Core: The Increasing Relevance of Experiential Learning in Undergraduate Business Education,” Research in Higher Education Journal 26 (October 2014): 1-17; DDavid Thornton Moore, “Forms and Issues in Experiential Learning,” New Directions for Teaching and Learning 124 (2010): 3-13.
  16. Judy Diamond, Practical Evaluation Guide: Tools for Museums and Other Informal Educational Settings (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 1999); John H. Falk & Lynn D. Dierking, Learning from museums: Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2000); Janet Marstine, New Museum Theory and Practice: An Introduction (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006); Amy E. Ryken, “Interpreting Nature: Connecting to Visitor Understandings,” Roots: Botanic Gardens Conservation International Education Review 6, no. 1 (2009): 9-13; Richard Sandell, Museums, Prejudice, and the Framing of Difference (New York: Routledge, 2007).
  17. William Cronon, “Introduction: In Search of Nature,” in Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature, ed. William Cronon (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1995), 55.
  18. Anne Whiston Spirn, “Constructing Nature: The Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted,” in Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature, ed. William Cronon (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1995), 113.
  19. William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; Or, Getting back to the Wrong Nature,” in Uncommon ground: Toward Reinventing Nature, ed. William Cronon (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1995), 86-87.
  20. Jill S. Schneiderman, “Awake in the Anthropocene,” Contemporary Buddhism 13, no. 1 (2012): 94.
  21. Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 15.
  22. Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness,” 85.
  23. Spirn, “Constructing Nature.”
  24. Haupt, The Urban Bestiary, 319.