Cultivating Sustainability Pedagogy through Participatory Action Research in Interior Alaska
As the environmental movement grows into a broader sustainability revolution, we must move beyond the traditional scope of environmental education to address social-ecological challenges through integrated education for sustainability. This paper proposes that the purpose of sustainability education is to foster a community culture that will promote the emergence of sustainability in complex adaptive systems with social and ecological components. This research explores how place-based education can promote sustainability of a particular community food system. Through participatory action research, the paper develops and demonstrates pedagogical components of sustainability that are applicable to formal and non-formal educational contexts. This work is based at the Effie Kokrine Charter School (EKCS), a junior-senior high school in Fairbanks, Alaska that teaches with an Alaska Native approach, emphasizing place-based, experiential, and holistic education by utilizing students’ natural and human communities to facilitate learning. The collaborative design of an Interior Alaska gardening curriculum serves as both an organizing framework for the project’s fieldwork as well as an outcome of the research. The resultant gardening curriculum and the rationale behind its design demonstrate components of pedagogy for sustainability, including systems thinking, place-based and problem-based learning, eco-cultural literacy, eco-justice values, and appropriate assessment. This pedagogical framework has theoretical and practical implications in multiple educational settings and indicates ways for our educational institutions to participate in the global sustainability revolution.