Biocitizen Inc.

About Biocitizen

Our goal is to help students perceive and understand where they live. When they know where they live, and how their friends and family are what makes that place theirs, they are moved to love and care for it.

Where we live is who we are; and by learning our place, we learn who we are.

> We are more than we have ever been taught.

We walk in cities, in suburbs, in parks and in wilderness, opening our senses and getting good exercise. As we explore the place we are in, absorbing its natural and cultural history, we learn to read it.

Environmentalism literacy, knowing the language of how our world is constructed, is key—for what is written can be rewritten. Philosophy is key, too—for what is rewritten, the world we live in, is written by all of us who share, and are part of, the biotic commonwealth of life on Earth.

Places are stories we live in. Field Environmental Philosophy invites us to read and be an active co-creator of, our story: our place.

Executive Board

Dr. Kurt Heidinger

Dr. Kurt Heidinger

Founder, Board Clerk, Director of Biocitizen MA, Teacher

Kurt has been developing and teaching field environmental philosophy courses since 1994. At UConn-Storrs (1994-2004) he developed “Words In the Woods,” a three-week summer-camp intensive for gifted and talented high school students. During this time, he served as an elected Inland Wetlands Commissioner in the town of Chaplin, Ct., which gave him a practical understanding of the legal and regulatory aspects of environmentalism.He also served as an appointed Conservation Commissioner for the same town, and received the Presidential Award from the Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland Wetland Commissions in 1999 for his leadership role in preserving open space in the Natchaug River watershed. To organize conservationists within the borders of Connecticut’s largest drinking water watershed, Kurt founded and served as president for the citizen-action Naubesatuck Watershed Council. Under his direction, Naubesatuck played the leading role in establishing long-term protection for, and USGS monitoring of, the Fenton River on the UConn-Storrs campus.

As a visiting research professor at the Center for Environmental Philosophy based at the University of North Texas (2005-2007), Kurt was mentored by Dr. Eugene Hargrove, founder-editor of Environmental Ethics, the preeminent academic journal of environmental philosophy. At CEP, he developed “Tracing Darwin’s Path” in collaboration with Dr. Ricardo Rozzi, and the Omora and OSARA foundations. This unique and transformative intensive takes place every December and January on Navarino Island in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve at the southernmost tip of South America.

Dr. Francisca Massardo

Dr. Francisca Massardo

Advisory Board, Chile

Dr. Francisca Massardo is an ethnobotanist and plant physiologist who has authored many publications about biocultural conservation science and philosophy. She is the President of the Fundacion Centro Cabo de Hornos. She co-founded the Parque Etnobotanico Omora, and serves as educator and administrator for the Universidad de Magallanes – Centro Universitario Puerto Williams, and the Instituto de Ecologia y Biodiversidad (IEB, Chile – Magallanes). Her office is in Puerto Williams, Provincia Antártica Chilena, Reserva de Biosfera Cabo de Hornos.

Vicente Aguirre Diez

Vicente Aguirre Diez

Advisory Board, Teacher, Director of Biocitizen Chile

Vicente trained with Biocitizen in Westhampton and Los Angeles in the summer of 2018. He has now begun to build a sister school in Viña del Mar, Chile.

Collaborators

Emilio Garcia de la Huerta Sutil

Emilio Garcia de la Huerta Sutil

Collaborator, Owner, Operator of Superfun Chile

Emilio facilitated the first Now Voyager trip to Chile, and from his base in Pichilemu on the Costa Central is ready to teach us to surf at Punta de Lobos.
Of our experience, he writes:

This is our most delightful work to do for us, please follow us in this little story telling about our work as co-teachers with Mr. Kurt Heidinger, at this time it is a pleasure to announce we have students from University of Masachusets getting credits as Biocitizen´s  Now Voyager Field Environmental Philosophy outdoor course.

This consists of a true expedition into Chilean central south coastal ecosystem, passing by the pristine creeks of the Coastal Range, any by the central valley facing straight into the Andes! The program theme is about: ¨following the path of water¨, we study using all of our senses into a deep-biotic immersion in each stage of our water steps, we get to experience the cold antarctic current flowing into northern subtropical seas just like a river, we play in the current because as Ricardo Rozzi says: ¨we learn by playing¨. A step into a native canyon without even tents get us to sleep outside like true explorers used to vivac centuries ago, and then we keep going into the andes following step by step into the snow.

Dr. Boyd Kynard and Brian Kynard

Dr. Boyd Kynard and Brian Kynard

Collaborators, BKRIVERFISH LLC

BK-Riverfish LLC is an environmental consulting business focused on migratory fish behavior, ecology, and fish passage. It is staffed by Boyd Kynard, PhD in Fish Biology, Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WN, in 1971, and by his son, Brian Kynard, BS in Biology, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2006.

At the University of Massachusetts and at the S. O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center (USGS), Turners Falls, MA, Boyd spent 40 years studying behavior, ecology, and fish passage of migratory fish, including the endangered shortnose sturgeon, in the Connecticut River, particularly in the Massachusetts reach. Boyd has an international reputation having studied riverine fish migration in Brazil, China, and Romania. Brian has 25 years working for the Natural Resources Department, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst, as a Technician or Project Leader on diverse field and laboratory research on Connecticut River migratory fish, including shortnose sturgeon, and on field and artificial stream studies on ecology of white sturgeon in the Kootenai River, Idaho-Canada. Both Boyd and Brian have taught nature, swimming, and canoeing classes to middle and high school students. BK-Riverfish has a fish behavior/hydraulics lab in Erving, MA, on the Millers River that will be the site of artificial stream trials and data analyses.

About Biocitizen

Biocitizen was incorporated in 2009 to provide educational services within the field of environmental philosophy, including operating a school that teaches this subject in both traditional indoor classroom settings and outdoors at local, national and international sites. To ensure its educational services are of the highest quality, and reach as large an audience as possible, Biocitizen conducts scholarly research, develops curricula and syllabi, trains teachers, and performs public outreach through a website, the giving of lectures and presentations, and through the creation and dissemination of educational materials in print and other media.

The school admits students of any race, color, and national or ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at our school and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, and national or ethnic origin in administration of our educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school administered programs.

What is Biocitizen?

Fact:
Biocitizen is the only school in the world that is fully dedicated to Field Environmental Philosophy

Locations:
Westhampton, Massachusetts

President
Kelli Moses

Founded
2009

The word “biocitizen” is a contraction of “biotic citizen,” a term Aldo Leopold (1887–1948) used in A Sand County Almanac. One of our nation’s first wildlife managers, Leopold co-founded the Wilderness Society and 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.

Leopold reached this conclusion while serving as the Forest Supervisor of the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico. Following the standard game management practices of the early 20th century, he exterminated wolves to increase the deer population for hunters. Without predators, the deer population skyrocketed—and crashed due to overgrazing and desertification. Leopold was shocked to see what he had done. When the thunderstorms came, he watched fertile topsoils wash down from the mountains into the rivers, there being no living plants to stop the erosion. Knowing the management strategies he learned at Yale had failed, a chastened Leopold looked upon the wolf with profound respect, appreciative of its key role in sustaining the “biotic community” he was paid to care for. The wolf, he realized, was a better wildlife manager than he was!

This discovery (made outside, not inside) led him thereafter to question untested assumptions about how humanity fits into the designs of nature. He used what he learned to help his culture to discover and value biodiversity, and the larger family of life on earth that we belong to.

Leopold distinguished between two ways Americans relate to nature, one typical of pioneer culture and one newly emerging that is dedicated to inhabiting land sustainably.  We “see repeated the same basic paradoxes: man the conqueror versus man the biotic citizen; science the sharpener of his sword versus science the searchlight on his universe; land the slave and the servant versus land the collective organism.”

His biotic citizen is our biocitizen, a person who enacts the land ethic in everyday life, behaving as a “plain member and citizen” of a biotic community that “include[s] soils, waters, plants, animals, or collectively: the land.”

Drawing upon Leopold’s legacy of ideas and intentions, which in turn are rooted deeply in Western philosophy, Biocitizen provides students a hands-on introduction to the “ecological interpretation of history” at sites where they can perceive themselves and the land as a “collective organism.”

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 Almanaca text that forms a foundation for Deep EcologyOne 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.

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.

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.