Syllabus for ENVR 486 (CRN 22298) 5cr., Spring, 2006



Location:  ES 345.  Time: Tues & Thurs, 10:00-11:50

Instructor:  Gene Myers, Ph.D. 

Office: AH 224; Phone:  x4775; mailstop 9085; mailbox in AH 217; e-mail:

Office Hours: Tues 2:00-3:30 & W 11:00-12:30 (sign up on office door), or by appointment.



            Many environmental educators are deeply engaged in preparing the next generation to lead lives of environmental responsibility and appreciation of the non-human world.  This long-term work is indispensable.  Unless we give children experiences in nature, and nurture strong citizenship skills, they will not make good environmental decisions in the future.  Plus, there is some chance they will change their parents' attitudes too.  But although children do affect their parents, the opposite is the predominant direction of influence. Identity, life expectations, and basic cultural assumptions about the world are conveyed and negotiated in the family.  Parents, in their roles as citizens, workers and community members, are the ones in the position to change the institutionally-set contingencies that they and their children face now and will face in the future.  And, adults are the ones currently making the big impacts.

             How often do you look at the society around you feel discouraged by: high consumption life-styles; unsustainable daily transportation; work-place and household habits; wasteful institutional policies; industries the don't comply with regulations, much less exceed them; social inequalities of environmental cost and benefit; lack of support for school-based environmental education; polls that show people agree with expressions of concern about the environment, but rank it low when stacked against other crucial issues; or by communities polarized by the environmental consequences of differing visions of the good life? These expressions of daily life in our society (and others) are not beyond the reach of environmental education!  But they require different approaches than (or in complement to) nature-focused EE. Those approaches are the focus of this course.

            Think of another kind of list, also made up from examples you know of:  a community that pulls together to restore a neighborhood park; a teacher or principal who builds connections with local businesses and governmental officials and thus enhances her or his curriculum as well as sending a message of openness to parents; a non-profit organization that uses educational and media strategies to influence elected and appointed decision-makers;  a small-business owner who develops and markets a special line of certified "environmentally friendly" products; a member of a local industry association who learns better ways of doing business that also save money, and promotes these with other members of the association; a movement to change our sense of what "affluence" means; an NGO that brings fighting parties together and helps them develop environmentally and socially responsive solutions to their conflict, at the same time fostering positive and on-going relations among them; an NGO that works with a poor rural village near the boundary of a protected habitat in the developing world, to enlist their investment in biodiversity preservation; or members of an urban community who bring attention to a problematic condition and mobilize others to address it. All of these are real examples can be found and learned from.

            The above examples don't sound like traditional EE because they often only indirectly involve nature or human impacts on it, and because they involve adults in their everyday pursuits, not special educational settings apart from everyday life.  But they all involve socially-mediated and environmentally-relevant behavior. They may seem like small changes, but every one has immediate effects, and builds receptiveness in the community for other changes.

            Environmental educators should be prepared to undertake this kind of work, which is also overlaps with "education for sustainability."  This course will prepare you to see opportunities for it, and do it.  It takes a special degree of maturity, because we must be responsible for our own values, and be able to let others have their own values. We must be ready to assist them, but also to let them deserve and take credit. First of all, however, we must be ready and willing to learn from them.

            How does one gain acceptance by, and learn from, the world of business, or of ethnically, racially, and culturally diverse groups, or of other SES strata, or of churches, civic groups, mall-goers, or even ORV users, and so on? It means learning their languages, finding common ground, identifying and strengthening internal leaders and positive steps happening already, and creating support for further steps. It requires accepting and becoming skilled in the life-worlds in which adults spend their lives.

This broad project is immensely exciting, putting us in touch with diverse members of our society, forging new links, learning new ways of seeing the world, and challenging ourselves to translate our knowledge and values into others' terms, while also respecting and celebrating others' autonomy, power and life-worlds.



This course will help the student:

        Gain theoretical and practical appreciation of the importance and potential of working with existing human communities (communities are defined as groups of people having shared interests, values, backgrounds, or locations -- by intention, or especially without intention).

        Learn about and analyze examples of effective community-based partnerships in environmental education locally and internationally.

        Investigate one example first-hand and in-depth, confronting the challenge of getting to know a community different from one's own, and report on what you learn.

        Develop skill in working as an educator in community-based efforts.



1.      Attend class and participate (including any field trips and sessions with guests); read and digest common readings; and actively participate in discussions and activities. There will be some lecture also.  As a class about community, we will also try to be a Learning Community ourselves! Attendance & participation are less a matter of individual choice than of group obligation.

* Invite, listen to, and try to understand points of view different than your own.

* Identify and articulate your own thoughts. Ask questions whenever you don't understand.

* Treat others respectfully, whether you agree with them or not. Focus disagreement on the ideas, and examine them rigorously (especially your own ideas or those you agree with).

* Provide appropriate support and challenge to each other.

* Challenge yourself to learn: "To grow, your reach must continue to exceed your grasp." - S. Bryan


2.      Students are expected to help lead the use of class time, by researching and presenting topics, and leading discussions.  Please select and sign up for two of the following topics--one from the "conceptual" list, and one from the "practical tools" list (up to 2 people each). The instructor will provide a starting list of resources, upon which you will build with your own resources, and then present what you learn to the class  (including, where appropriate, an activity).

                Conceptual tools                                        

                        community commons mgmt

social capital

adult learners and development environmental justice

cross-cultural understanding

metaphor & message framing   


             Practical tools

asset mapping

working effectively with volunteers

grassroots organizing & progressive populism

stakeholder coalition building & consensus

storytelling and narrative

hopefulness / building successes


3.      Undertake a major project in which you, as part of a group, identify, investigate, and report on an on-going community-based environmental education effort, and contribute to it.  As a group, your work must have the components listed below. Note that there are due dates for progress steps in your project (contact & resource list; early field report, progress rept & proposal for 3b; draft; pres.; final) on the class schedule.

a)      Develop an understanding of the actors and community context in which the effort or program has evolved, and write up this information together with a description of the education program, in a report of 15 to 50 pages.

b)      Contribute to the effort with which you are working. Contributions should be intellectual as well as practical in nature (in other words, just volunteering your labor isn't enough), and should produce some product, or be documented in some fashion. Possible contributions include:

designing a curriculum or designing and piloting outreach materials

producing a mass media description / advocacy piece

helping design and implement a networking strategy

conducting a survey or other research/information-related need

organizing and carrying out a community involvement or education event

                    You will write a proposal  for part 3b, and have it approved by the instructor.

4. End-of-term self-assessment and assessment of contributions of others in your project group.



1) Class participation                                                                                        10%

2) Two topic research and class presentations                                       30%

3) Major project report, documentation & presentation                         60%



        Biodiversity Project, Ethics for a Small Planet. Chapters available online at:

         McKenzie-Mohr, D. (2001). Community-Based Social marketing. Available at:  Sign up (free, no strings), find text. (Or alternative readings if you have already read this book.

        Reading as required for your presentations and projects, as above.

        URL's for web readings will be emailed to the group in advance.

        Articles distributed in class or in 3-ring binder in Huxley Library, TBA.



Any student with a disability that may affect their performance in this class is encouraged to speak to the instructor or the Office of Student Life (360-3844) to arrange for suitable accommodation.







Week #

& date



Major project deadlines

T1  3/28

"community," "education," "environment," "sustainability"

Project possibilities

Thessaloniki Declaration


R  3/30

Values based communication

BP, Pref., Intro, Sect. I


T2  4/4

Values based communication

BP, Sect. II & III

Choose topics / organizational partners

R  4/6

Values based communication

BP, Sect. IV & V


T3 4/11

Student presentations - TBA

reading for your group pres.

List of contacts & resources

R 4/13

Student presentations - TBA

reading for your group pres.


T4 4/18

Student presentations - TBA

reading for your group pres.


R 4/20

Challenge: Municipal water systems & educational messages

McKenzie-Mohr (web link above)


At least one interview or participant observation report due

T5 4/25

Psychology of changing behavior



R  4/27

Communication & environ-mentally-relevant behavior


Tools, cont.


T6  5/2

Student presentations - TBA

reading for your group pres.

Project progress report & contribution proposal

R  5/4

Student presentations - TBA

reading for your group pres.


T7 5/9

Student presentations - TBA

reading for your group pres.


R  5/11

Leadership and group process



Sat 5/13

We host Team Alive visit to WWU Plan for most of day!!


We will help conduct activities and tours!!

T8 5/16

No class Sat. exchange



R  5/18

Campus environmental tour



T9 5/23

Green industry

CERES  (web)

Global Reporting Init. (web)

Draft of report

R  5/25

Psychology of changing over-consumption

Strategies & Pitfalls (web)

Overcoming consumption


T 5/30

Open for needs of class



R 6/1

Group presentations



R 6/8


Scheduled final time


Final reports  &