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Trading Zones in Environmental Education

Creating Transdisciplinary Dialogue


Edited By Marianne E. Krasny and Justin Dillon

Environmental educators often adhere to a relatively narrow theoretical paradigm focusing on changing attitudes and knowledge, which are assumed to foster pro-environmental behaviors, which, in turn, leads to better environmental quality. This book takes a different approach to trying to understand how environmental education might influence people, their communities, and the environment. The authors view changing environmental behaviors as a «wicked» problem, that is, a problem that does not readily lend itself to solutions using existing disciplinary approaches. The book as a whole opens up new avenues for pursuing environmental education research and practice and thus expands the conversation around environmental education, behaviors, and quality. Through developing transdisciplinary research questions and conceptual paradigms, this book also suggests new practices beyond those currently used in environmental education, natural resources management, and other environmental fields.
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Chapter 7. The Emotional Life of the Environmental Educator: John Fraser and Carol B. Brandt



Chapter 7

The Emotional Life of the Environmental Educator

John Fraser and Carol B. Brandt

Educational contexts are emotionally charged settings; the environmental education classroom is no exception, and it includes a stressful dimension beyond the teaching of other subjects. This chapter examines the emotional life of the environmental educator and the stress that comes with teaching about endangered species and the inevitable loss of habitat, the anxiety of contentious debates over conservation, and the frustration of scientism with its moral superiority. All of these tensions are compounded by the emotional labor that is demanded of teachers to foster a nurturing learning context, all the while feeling increasingly alienated from mainstream cultural norms. In this chapter, John and Carol provide an analysis of emotions among environmental educators, drawing upon psychological and anthropological perspectives. As they examine the emotional life of the educator, they propose undertaking autobiographical self-examination through narrative as a means to both confront and come to terms with one’s conflicted emotional state.

As educators, John and Carol began their collaboration with a narrative of an encounter between an environmental educator and a plant enthusiast who wished to propagate the invasive plant purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) in a local wetland. They used this polarized debate to introduce an emotionally charged topic that can harm intercultural discourse. Both authors recounted experiencing a heart-sinking sadness whenever they encounter ← 133 | 134 → purple loosestrife; they wonder if the wetland where it resides is lost. For...

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