Mike Mueller just got to Alaska, but he has big plans. With his rich background in ecojustice research, he’s ready to apply that knowledge to place-based science education in Alaska.
What is ecojustice, you ask?
"It’s this holistic tension between cultural systems and natural habitats," says Mueller, a new associate professor of secondary education in UAA’s College of Education. Recently transplanted from the University of Georgia, Mueller has been focusing his research on ecojustice for about eight years and he is now a part of a team at UAA seeking funding to better connect science education with identity of place for Alaska’s young students.
"Ecojustice looks at the sustainability of both the needs of people and the needs of animals and their natural systems," Mueller says. "In my research I mostly look at trends that are emerging in science education, and gather evidence that these are rapidly emerging or cutting-edge trends."
One example of such a trend is citizen science. Given the increasing public participation in science, Mueller asks, "How do you engage students in evaluating justice issues or issues around fairness in their own environments and lives?"
Citizen science helps connect people to their surroundings through research projects that allow them to monitor and collect data on issues pertinent to their own communities. Why not translate that into science education in public schools? When Mueller first started writing about citizen science five years ago he estimates there were maybe a hundred projects worldwide that people could get involved in. Now that number is well over 500 worldwide. "It’s a really neat trend," he says.
More importantly, maybe, is if you follow citizen science far enough, especially in an education setting, it could turn in to youth activism—another area that Mueller is passionate about.
"How do you get kids to take this science content knowledge that they’re learning, and obviously being tested on—how do you take it to the next step to where they start forecasting and considering consequences. From there they can take action in their community, be a part of the decision-making as stakeholders in their own community," he says.
FALLOWS' PODCASTS AVAILABLE
Did you miss the Bartlett Lecture series at UAA this week?
James Fallows and his wife Deborah, a linguist, both had a lot to offer. She has a new book out, called "Dreaming in Chinese." She uses language to understand culture, and told a charming story about how use of the word "love" is changing in China, and what that might mean.
James Fallows has a 30-year career in journalism and is the national correspondent for The Atlantic. His latest book is "China Airborne," which also seeks to explain China's rapid development through the lens of one industry.
They spoke twice at UAA. The bookstore podcast, focusing mostly on Deborah's work, can be downloaded or listened to here.
James was the main speaker at the Bartlett Lecture in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium in the evening. That podcast is available here.
They also spoke in Juneau and in Fairbanks at other UA campuses. Really worth a listen. Thanks to the Bartlett Lecture Series for bringing them to Alaska.
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