Reifying Optimism, Solidarity and Empathy: Articulating Curriculum as Basis for Land-Based Youth Leadership
de la Cruz, David
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The purpose of this thesis is to propose land-based learning tools for use in urban public-school education. The main question of this thesis is: How can urban public-school curriculum cultivate urban land stewards with visions toward climate/environmental justice? The region of focus is the Duwamish Valley, specifically high schools in what is known as South Seattle, and within the Highline School District in particular. This curriculum is not intended to be replicable, due to its place specificity. Nonetheless, there are broader lessons learned that can be extracted to form the foundations of other place-specific curriculum elsewhere. These learning tools will address five topics -- topography, land-use, demographics, movement networks, and local knowledge -- with accompanying lesson plans for each. These topics are explored through creation of maps, spatializing information gathered within the classroom setting during each learning activity. A focus on land provides youth the ability to make connections between their neighborhood and the region in which they live to situate their lived experiences in the classroom setting. The activities in each lesson plan centralize the neighborhood, and the city/region in the education process using land to learn about and ground student experiences of the built environment around them. These lessons enable students to explore the built environment and the ways in which it sustains complex systems and remnants of historical ecologies, and how it has also historically hindered, and continues to stagnate, community development of historically oppressed communities. To ensure the lessons are adequately understood there will be an assessment by students, educators, and administrators for effectiveness. Further, this curriculum articulates the ways students and youth leadership can be supported and sustained for the future of communities impacted by historical processes such as, but not limited to settler-colonialism, industrialization, and global capitalism. Finally, the role of Optimism, Solidarity, and Empathy are offered as guiding values to cultivate in youth through the 4 C’s. A strong and permanent connection to land is made possible through the curriculum framework of contestation, contextualization, commitment, collaboration. These Four-C’s are the underlying themes for each proposed curriculum.