“We are human because, at a very early stage in the history of the species, our ancestors discovered a way of preserving and disseminating the results of experience.” “But we understand only when, by liberating ourselves from the tyranny of words, conditioned reflexes, and social conventions, we establish direct, unmediated contact with experience.” Aldous Huxley, 1956, Knowledge & Understanding Part 1, Vedanta & the West, Vedanta Soc. of S. California
The Lifestyle Project Steven Earle, Geology Department Malaspina University-College Nanaimo, British Columbia
Science 403 Energy and the Environment SCIE-403 is one of the science requirements for Education students at Malaspina. We use the topic of energy to provide some science background, particularly in Earth Science and Physics, and to discuss how our uses of energy impact the environment.
Most of us would like to do something to decrease our impact on the environment, however most of us think that:• our individual contribution to environmental and climate change is small, and• even if we do change, it won’t make much difference because others won’t.
One of our objectives in SCIE-403 is to encourage students to break out of this pattern. This 2003 paper from the Journal of Geoscience Education seemed to fit with our goals.
In the Lifestyle Project students are challenged to make some significant changes to their lifestyles, and to keep a journal describing how well they met their targets and how the changes impacted them and those around them.We asked out students to work on the following: • minimizing electricity use • minimizing heating energy use • minimizing wasteful use of water • minimizing (eliminating) generation of landfill waste • minimizing (eliminating) use of a car • adopting a diet that has minimal environmental impact
Participation in the project is voluntary. The alternative is a term paper. (We have over 90% participation!)We ask students to select any 3 of the 6 topics, and then submit a written proposal listing their choices, outlining what their goals will be in each of the 3 areas, and how they plan to achieve those goals.
For each student the project lasts 3 weeks. In the first week they have to meet their goals on 2 days, in the second week 3 days and in the final week 4 days.
The most popular topic choices are water and diet, followed by electricity and waste. Alas, relatively few choose to give up the use of their car!
Some important aspects of the project for students: • learning that they can make a difference to the environment, • understanding how they and those around them are affected by their lifestyle changes, • modifying their strategies over the three-week period, • describing their progress, and, most importantly, how they feel about, it in a journal
Learning models represented by the Lifestyle Project: Kurt Lewin – Action research or self-reflective enquiry Although they may not be aware of it, each of the students is involved in their own action research project. They are researching ways to reduce their environmental impact, reflecting on how well they have done and how it has impacted them, and writing up the results in a journal.
Learning models represented by the Lifestyle Project: John Dewey – Experiential learning as a cyclic process: impulse, observation, knowledge and judgment Because it’s a three-week project, and because students reflect on and then write about their progress every week, it becomes a cyclic process.
Experiential learning as a cyclic process: • Students: • acquire knowledge about reducing their environmental impact, • plan some lifestyle changes and a strategy for achieving them, • observe their progress, • judge how the process might be improved, and • make some changes to the strategy for meeting their next week’s goals.
Learning models represented by the Lifestyle Project: David Kolb – Learning through transformation of knowledge acquired from experience The Lifestyle Project can be described using Kolb’s experiential learning theory. Students are experiencing what it’s like to reduce their environmental impact, and transforming that experience into understanding in a variety of different ways:
Transformation of knowledge acquired through experience: C ∆ E (comprehension transformed by extension) Find out which of your appliances use the most energy and devise a strategy to reduce consumption. A ∆ E (apprehension transformed by extension) Try out a number of energy-conservation options until you find a group of options that feels doable and is acceptable to the other members of the household. A ∆ I (apprehension transformed by intention) Share ideas with a classmate on how to reduce energy consumption. C ∆ I (comprehension transformed by intention) Experiment with different energy-saving strategies and watch your energy consumption meters to monitor the effect.
We have been truly amazed at the response of students to this project; not just in how well they were able to meet their goals, but in the positive feedback they gave us about how good it felt, how they were influencing those around them, and how they thought that this would lead to permanent - and positive - changes in their lives. Some examples:
“I am now used to all the free time in the mornings that I save from not doing my hair; this I thought I could never change!”
“Overall, this project has opened my eyes to the variety of food that is available to me that is beneficial to the environment, as well as the amount of energy I consume on a daily basis. It has made my lifestyle one that I can be proud of.”
“Everyone seems happy to see how united we are in trying to "save the environment" – personally I think when I say "save money" they appear more willing – either way it benefits us!”
“I have come to the end of my lifestyle project and I am amazed how fast it has gone. I never would have thought that this one small assignment would have such a large impact on both myself and the people around me. I have been able to influence my landlord, family, friends and most importantly myself.”
“Today I showed my children how the hydro meter “speeds up” with the use of the oven, stereo, computer, lights and TV. They were amazed at the differences when nothing was operating verses when everything is on.”
“It was fun, trying and eye-opening. An experience that I will take with me for many, many years and incorporate into my teaching in the future.”
End of term survey on the lifestyle project: • 31/34 said that it increased their awareness of the environment • 34/34 thought that it was a useful education experience • 32/34 said that they would consider adapting this project to their own classrooms
The lifestyle project doesn’t just have to be about the environment. There are many areas in which we and our students could be challenged to change our lifestyles in ways that would be of benefit to us and the wider community.Some examples: • social awareness • political awareness • fitness and health • study habits
If you’d like to take the lifestyle challenge please go to: http://web.mala.bc.ca/earle/lifestyle/and/or get in touch with me:email@example.com