Sesame Street had it right!

I use Netflix; I admit it. I also plop my kids infront of my computer some mornings and have them watch Sesame Street on Netflix to give me time to get stuff done. I know – I am not going to win “Father of the Year” anytime soon.

In any event, The Children’s Television Workshop, the creators of Sesame Street, have recently released classic episodes from the 70s and 80s. Not only was this an exercise in nostalgia for me, but (and as a parent you will appreciate this) the new episodes served as manna from the sky in terms of the allowance for getting the laundry done, sorting the recycling, and preparing lunches at 7:00 AM; when it’s -30 celcius, as it is at this time in Winnipeg, these tasks seem insurmountable.

Over the past few weeks, my ears have perked up a couple of times as I half-listened to these classic episodes. Two segments spoke to me in a powerful way given my current writing and research on the relationship between experiential learning and ecological literacy.

The first is entitled the Garbageman’s Blues:

This video, created in the 1970s, is already talking about the fact that we are running out of resources and the limits to our understandings of growth. It implies a holistic approach to understanding our impact on various systems, and it does so at a time when the term sustainable development had yet to cross our lips and appear on the websites of various levels of government and ecologically minded organizations such as Shell Canada.

The second clip deals more with the notion of systems thinking – something we do not tend to employ or encourage in education:

Both of these clips suggest that we have long recognized a need for an ecological literacy and that even 30 or 40 years ago, educators were identifying a need. Further, educators were creating a curriculum to address the current ecological crisis. So what happened? Why do we not teach systems thinking? Why do we not teach ecological literacy? Why do we still teach in an industrialized model which created this crisis in the first place? For some bizarre reason we still deliver Tylarian curricula in segmented and drywalled silos and then expect students to make connections between subject areas and their own lives.

Might I suggest as educators that we attempt to develop an ecological literacy and an ability to think with systems in mind? Perhaps a resolution of sorts? This means moving beyond the provincial curricula and simply putting blue boxes in our classrooms. This means reading, thinking, collaborating, and fundamentally reorganizing how and why we educate young people. This might mean shutting off NFL football or the Bachelor in an effort to understand how humans impact all systems within the biosphere. This means challenging our students to think critically about how they interact with all systems. This means seeing education as a means for social transformation and not a glorified daycare or a mechanism for the acquisition of credentials.

 I am going to give it a whirl and I hope you will join me. I would love to hear your thoughts and work with you. Please let me know. I make lots of mistakes and am often I am a terrible teacher, but I hope together we can start to address what Kermit et al. were trying to tell us 40 years ago.

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