English, Department of


Date of this Version

Winter 11-23-2011

Document Type



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree Doctor of Philosophy, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Robert Brooke. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2011

Copyright (c) 2011 Catherine Mary Cave English


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.

Advisor: Robert Brooke