by James Bailey |
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It is not impossible for school kids to model climate change at the whole planet level. NASA in particular offers apps appropriate for the high school years. These apps, however, are a distraction. They focus kids on an ecological scale they can’t do anything about.

Landscape ecology brings the study of ecology down to a human scale. Landscapes are the amount of the planet you can see by looking out the schoolhouse window. They are at the amount of the planet that an individual can meaningfully suggest ways to improve. The way to do so, of course, is to model that local landscape on a computer, modify the model in an ecologically responsible way, then communicate that alternative to others in the local community, using pictures. "This is what our local ecology looks like today. It would be healthier for the planet, and for us, if if looked like this instead.”

Why don't we routinely do this work in middle school? We don't because the tools for modeling actual local landscapes are complicated and thus inappropriate for kids. So instead we offer video games: games that draw kids into make-believe landscapes with make-believe ecologies.

Self Schooling is strongly opposed to turning our schools into video game parlors. The goal of education must be equipping kids to function productively in the world they will actually live in, not some sugarcoated fantasyland. 

To that end, Self Schooling will be testing the potential for modeling and manipulating actual local landscapes and actual local ecologies. We will be doing so using the best available tools and data regardless of cost or complexity. Only then can we ask ourselves: "Should these same capabilities be re-engineered to be suitable for the middle school years.” (Spoiler alert: Yes, they should.)


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