Academics and Research

Environmental education would benefit society, alum says

The way Christy Moroye (MA ’99, PhD ’07) sees it, if society wants to become more ecologically aware, that transition’s got to start in the classroom.

“Environmental education in the U.S. is primarily supplemental or only housed in the sciences,” she says, noting that it needs to be integrated into the curriculum. That, she says, will not only benefit students and schools, but ultimately the planet.

Research suggests that younger students should focus on connecting with nature and their local communities before tackling more pressing issues like pollution or global warning, she explains. Instead, most young students only connect during an occasional field trip.

Her research on this subject has won her “Dissertation of the Year” in Curriculum and Instruction from the American Education Research Association, an organization whose goal is to advance educational research and its practical application.

“While many have studied environmental education, few have focused on environmentally conscious teachers in traditional public schools,” she says.

Moroye’s dissertation, which she worked on for about a year and a half, focused on four ecologically minded public high school teachers; three taught English and one taught social studies. To gather research, she interviewed the teachers, observed their classroom practice, wrote literary descriptions of them and analyzed them by connecting them to other relevant research.

She found that teachers offer a kind of curriculum that is unique to them, and their ecological beliefs come alive through their expressions and personal stories. Also, “ecologically minded teachers all orchestrated caring environments for their students, which is reflective of their own care for the environment,” she says.

Moroye, now an assistant professor of curriculum and supervision at the University of Iowa College of Education, says she agrees with the notion that writing a dissertation is the loneliest part of the PhD process. So being recognized [for an award] is all the more rewarding because it “makes that private process more public.”

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