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Living well: The value of teaching place

Catherine Mary Cave English, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation is a teaching memoir that examines the implementation of a place conscious pedagogy as a means to teach sustainable living practices into a secondary English classroom in a rural Nebraska school. It is framed upon the premise of instilling five senses of place consciousness into students as defined by Haas and Nachtigal (1998) including living well in community or a sense of belonging; living well spiritually or a sense of connection; living well economically or a sense of worth; living well politically or a sense of civic involvement; and living well ecologically or a sense of place. I argue that the five senses of place conscious pedagogy parallel three key concepts of sustainability: economic, social and environmental well-being. I illustrate several teaching practices as a means to instill these senses and sustainable well-being into students' lives and consciousness, including oral history narratives in digital format, a deep mapping exercise, a writing marathon, work ethnographies, individualized local inquiries, and interdisciplinary local inquiries. I analyze and critique the value of connecting students within a writing classroom to other members of a community, which often involve intergenerational connections. I argue that these genuine inquiries and connections provide practice and mastery of basic writing and verbal communication skills and critical thinking skills. ^ I present the theoretical framework of place conscious education and sustainability in each chapter before presenting and critiquing student writing examples by exploring the kinds of rhetorical strategies students utilize within the framework of each writing practice. Each chapter concludes with a reflection on my practice in the language arts classroom. I also call for higher education to play a vital role in the paradigm shift needed to initiate sustainable education practices. Teacher preparation must play an integral part in developing place conscious, environment-based, or sustainability education. It is essential to implement effective teacher education in order for the public, i.e. school children, to become environmentally literate so they can comprehend the importance of living sustainable lives.^

Subject Area

Education, General|Language, Rhetoric and Composition

Recommended Citation

English, Catherine Mary Cave, "Living well: The value of teaching place" (2011). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3482803.