Thursday, October 21, 2010

Module III - The Landscapes of Life

Explain - What new learning have I taken from this module?
What I found interesting, in this module, is thinking about how the landscape and the environment affect the human cultures that inhabit them.  In the western urbanized world, we like to think of ourselves as masters of our environment and of the land.  Clearly, events like Hurricane Katrina, Mt. Redoubt eruptions, coral bleaching, mass extinctions and the Chilean earthquake (need I go on?) belie that notion.  The Native notion that we are part of the landscape and that we need to use and conserve the resources that are available to us locally is much more sustainable.  Western culture often takes from the land while Natives often act as stewards of the land so that future generations can continue to live on the richness of the environment as the present generation does.

Jared Diamond's book "Guns, Germs and Steel" gives great examples of how the environment has affected the development of societies around the world and why some became more "advanced" than others.  He showed that many of the differences in societies were due to differences in the landscape and environment in which they evolved.  The cultures that adapted to their environment - instead of the cultures that tried to change the environment - are the ones that generally flourished.  The same author's book "Collapse" shows what happened to societies that were not good stewards of the land and resources, among other factors.

Extend and Evaluate - How can I use this week's resources and how useful, insightful or relevant are this module's information resources to me?

I often have students ask, "How can I use this science that you're teaching?"  The video about Richard Glenn is a great answer to that question, as well a great example of how Natives can embrace Western science without losing their place in the world.  When I was in Atqasuk, I did have scientists - both Native and non-Native - come into the science classes to talk about their work and its relevance to Atqasuk and the Inupiat people as well as career opportunites in their fields.  It was highly enlightening for both my students and myself.  This module reminded me that I need to do that here in Kenai, as well.

The videos on plate tectonics and the interactive images on plate boundaries and the locations of earthquakes, plate boundaries and volcanoes will be very useful in my Earth science classes, later in the year, when we get to those topics.  I also plan to use the information from the cultural connections video to demonstrate why the landforms produced by tectonic activity have relevence to our society.  Living in an area that has recently been impacted by Mt. Redoubt eruptions, this will be particularly powerful for Kenai students.

Three Comments

Carolyn's Explore 907 post is enjoyable and intersting.  I agreed with her particularly liking Richard Glenn's comment about the Native way of seeing the world and Western science merely being two flashlights shining down the same path. 
It sounds like Alison (Explore Alaska with Alison) lead a very magical and fortunate life as a child spending Alaskan winters in a remote cabin.
Dan Adair's blog mentioned the usefulness of the videos and of Google Earth for visual learners as well as the possibility of expanding studies of the Native view of the world to that of Natives outside of Alaska.


  1. I liked your reference to the book. I found it to be interesting and will be something I take a look at. I also enjoyed your pictures, I too enjoyed that video on Richard and feel it is a great tool to use in the classroom. You seem to be very knowledgeable on this topic and talking about science and landscapes as a veteran teacher. I too hope I can become this comfortable in my teaching as well.

  2. I agree - we do so often think of ourselves as masters of our environment, when we are so far from it.
    I'm a Jared Diamond fan too :)

  3. "In the western urbanized world, we like to think of ourselves as masters of our environment and of the land." This is a common misconception of people who have not witnessed the raw power of Mother Nature, especially with the young. I often tell my students the earth will survive anything man can dish out, it's humans who won't survive what mother nature can dish out...if we survive ourselves!