What We Teach
Biocitizen school is a Leopoldian school that specializes in teaching the “land organism” via Field Environmental Philosophy (FEP). The word “biocitizen” is a contraction of “biotic citizen,” a term Aldo Leopold (1887–1948) used in A Sand County Almanac, a text that forms a foundation for Deep Ecology. One of our nation’s first Federal wildlife managers, Leopold co-founded the Wilderness Society and, in response to the environmental impacts of our culture, is widely celebrated for conceiving the “land ethic”:
A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.
It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
The biocitizen is a person who abides by this ethic. Our school creates them through an inquiry-based FEP curricula that combines book-learning and teacher instruction with directed exposure to environmental subjects, anywhere.
We inculcate students with the ecological, cultural and existential information they need to understand that 1) “where they are is who they are” and 2) that their place is alive, a part of a land organism (a watershed-, ecoregion-, biome- habitat). With that understanding, the land ethic makes sense and can be abided by.
How We Teach
We teach in classrooms with texts in the traditional manner, but what makes our school special is our FEP curricula takes students into outdoor classrooms— “places”—and, through the peripatetic method, investigates its biocultural history.
No matter the age of our students: we are on a treasure hunt; we are detectives; we are hunter-gatherers; we are story-tellers; we are active, interpreting the place physically, intellectually, aesthetically, emotionally. We can raise the subjects and inquiries, or we can let the students raise them—but teachers must orient the investigation so it reveals the biocultural history our students’ own story is nested in.
Biocitizen teachers are masters of the story of the place the class investigates. Teachers must know as much of the biocultural history of the place as they can, and part of that knowledge is knowing: what is the best, most interesting and challenging, way of walking through it? Where will our students discover the most? That is where they are taken.
An FEP curricula can be executed anywhere, in wilderness or the city; because it is a reading of signs expressed naturally and symbols expressed culturally. The story of the place is articulated through these signs and symbols: that is what biocitizens (learn to) read.
We teach the environment the same way English teachers teach literature: by reading it with students, and getting them to write about it (i.e., to re-present through symbols what nature expresses as signs). The environment is not a book, though. It’s reality itself. And when we teach it, we curve everything back to the land ethic, imagining and fashioning the story we want to live in, because we live in stories as much as we live in the land organism. We teach as readers, and writers, of reality; that’s how we teach. That is what makes us and our school special.
Why we Teach
Biocitizen exists as a non-profit corporation to employ teachers who are capable of using it as a conceptual space for heuristic, pedagogic and educational experimentation, to achieve the Leopoldian goal of promoting a biocultural, historical way of understanding reality while culturally instilling the land ethic.
At this time, our nation’s epistemology (its structure of knowledge and values) is disintegrating, and Biocitizen can play a leading role in developing and executing FEP curricula. FEP is important because most people do not know where they are (e.g, where their essential resources come from, what the history of inhabitation is, etc.). As the megamachine, our current blend of humanity and technology combined, falls apart, the bioregional perspective we cultivate will be very valuable. To survive in a place once meant knowing it; biocitizens (will) know their place.
We teach to learn.