Metaphors we live, communicate, and teach by: Transitioning from Mechanism to Sustainability

Through presentation and collaborative dialogue this session explores the dominant metaphors that influence our perceptions, our work, our society and education.  This session will bring a deeper awareness of how our worldviews, our perceptions, and actions are supported and shaped by various myths of nature and the associated metaphors we use on a daily basis.  Our dominant worldview and its associated metaphors are influential in maintaining the unsustainable status quo, yet we are typically unaware of this happening. 

From this understanding we’ll look at how ecological metaphors can be powerful tools in transforming education in transitioning to a sustainable future.  Research is showing we can use ecological metaphors to communicate more effectively with those who think differently in working collaboratively to transition to a sustainable future.  In recognizing these root metaphors we can encourage transformation by consciously shifting to more sustainable eco-centric metaphors in our education and communications.

This workshop will engage diverse audiences and can be designed specifically for formal education (from Kindergarten to Masters), and professionals across all sectors.


Envisioning the Future of School: Rethinking Education for a Sustainable Future

Our educational system is currently part of the problem as it is educating people of all ages, through its very structure and process, into the mindset of the unsustainable status quo.  A mechanistic, linear mindset, which created the problems we are trying to mitigate, underpins the educational system’s philosophy, organization, curriculum, teaching and learning.  Although there have been numerous government reports, recommendations and support materials to encourage teachers to implement environmental education and sustainability initiatives (National Roundtable, 1993; BC Ministry of Education, 2007, 2010; LSF, 2010), much important work by teachers and policymakers is frustrated by the underlying structure of the educational system, with its focus on separate subject disciplines, hierarchical management practices, and transmissive teaching and learning practices.

This interactive session will bring together educators, administrators, community members and students to vision what we want the future of schooling to look like.  Based on visual presentations of The Problem with School we will look at the dominant organizational metaphors that structure and limit our present educational system, holding us back by undermining educational innovations and contributing to the unsustainable status quo. From this understanding we will explore through the principles of sustainable living systems, (holism, interdependence, community, diversity, adaptation, and emergence), introduced through The Future of School, how these principles inspire changes in management, curriculum, teaching and learning in developing transformative education for local communities and the reality and needs of the 21st Century.


Backcasting to a Sustainable Future

Backcasting is an interactive, inquiry based learning tool you can use with students, community members or in the work place to envision the future we want and then learn how to get there.  Typically we forecast, start from where we are and focus on the issues.  Backcasting is a simple, positive, proactive framework that starts from what we want in the future and then helps us stay focused on our vision to get there from where we are now.

Working from ecological principles it combines long-term vision with short-term action, a broad range of stakeholders, and incorporates environmental, social, economic and cultural imperatives. It is an interactive approach based on inquiry learning culminating in empowerment and taking action in schools and communities.  As it is focused on the future vision it is hopeful and pro-active.  This is 21st Century learning incorporating systems thinking, critical and futures thinking, and project-based inquiry learning.