1st Edition

Ecological Principles for Sustainable Education Challenging Root Metaphors and the Industrial Schooling System

By Liza Ireland Copyright 2024
    286 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores how the education sector can transition to being truly sustainable and why necessary innovations for educational change are being subverted and undermined when mapped onto the existing industrial educational system.

    Based on PhD case study research with schools that are modelling and teaching sustainability, action research, and the author’s 40 years of working in the K-12 system, this volume examines how education continues to perpetuate the status quo, and why education innovations are thus undermined. It shows the importance of redesigning education based on the principles of sustainable living systems and explores how this can be achieved across all levels of the educational system. The first part of the book establishes a new vision of sustainable education, whilst the second brings to light the industrial mechanistic root metaphors in current practice across leadership and administration, buildings and grounds, curriculum design, teaching, and learning that are subverting innovative efforts. From understanding the foundational, influential, problematic root metaphors of our "Industrial" educational system, it moves to explore how the ecological principles of sustainability can be used to rethink and redesign an educational system, from its administration, leadership, and policy, to curriculum, buildings, grounds and resources, through to teaching and learning, that will support sustainability, innovation, and creativity, developing systems thinking and sustainability as a frame of mind.

    Exploring how the education sector can transition to being truly sustainable and find new ways to traverse the problematic "Industrial" world view at this pivotal moment, will appeal to administrators, post-secondary educators, policymakers, and researchers and scholars of sustainability education, educational leadership, curriculum design, and educational philosophy.

    Part 1. Envisioning the Future 1. Visions of a Sustainable Future and the Role of Education Part 2. What is Holding us Back? 2. The Story of School Part 3. Creative Solutions 3. At the Crossroads: Guiding Principles of Sustainable Living Systems 4. Organization, Administration and Leadership to Support Transformative Learning and Systems Thinking 5. The Hidden Curriculum: Buildings, Grounds, and Resources 6. Curriculum: A Living Systems Framework 7. Teaching and Learning: Empowering Change Part 4. Next Steps: Adaptation and Emergence in Transitioning to Sustainable Education 8: Transitioning Organizational Structure, Administration, and Leadership 9. Transitioning Buildings, Grounds, and Resources 10. Transitioning Curriculum 11. Transitioning Teaching and Learning 12. The Whole is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts


    Dr. Liza Ireland is Associate Faculty in the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University, Canada, and founder of Changing Climates Educational Society.

    "The planetary ecological crisis begins with how we think and that makes education central to efforts to build a sustainable and decent civilization. Liza Ireland's remarkable book proposes systemic and deep changes across the board to reshape educational institutions to meet the global challenges ahead. It should be read by teachers, administrators, trustees, students, and public officials who need thoughtful answers to vexing problems."

    -David W. Orr, Arizona State University

    As an educator in the Industrial schooling system for over 20 years, I have witnessed first hand the impact such a system has on student learning and teacher resiliency, and the urgency by which change is needed. Ecological Principles for Sustainable Education: Challenging Root Metaphors and the Industrial Schooling System speaks to the barriers encountered by educators including myself in advocating for transformational changes, and provides management and administration with the understandings needed to bring about systemic change. Using real world examples, Dr. Ireland provides us with theory-to-practice ways to initiate the educational transformation required to transition society towards an eco-centric, life-affirming way of being. 

     -Dayna Margetts, B.Kin, M.Sc in Environmental Practice, High School Teacher, Kelowna, BC

    “Brilliant and timely! Dr. Ireland’s depth of knowledge of living systems and passion for sustainable education offers vital and experienced insights into what is possible when new epistemes recognize emergent properties and practices and we (re)solve the ways we teach and learn to see the whole of education as nested and interconnected. Our graduate students working within tired, outdated factory models of education will surely find inspiration and relief here. To imagine the eyes of the future looking back at us now, it becomes clear that the success of the student requires a profound shift in understanding of how true education is interdependent and concomitant with the health of lands and creatures, patterns and processes, and all people, present and future. This book shows us it is possible to flourish together when we live our learning.”

    -Dr. Hilary Leighton School of Environment and Sustainability, Royal Roads University

    “We finally have the blueprint for the education system that is needed for the world we are facing.  Spoiler alert: What would nature do?  This book not only gives the vision but explains how to implement a new system and shares real-world examples.  This book ought to be read by stakeholders at every level of our current education system.” 

    Erich Meyer, Secondary Teacher

    “Ecological Principles for Sustainable Education recognizes that there is a need for opportunities and challenges to be addressed by multiple stakeholders including teacher training programs, policymakers, and elements of the general community. Case examples are provided where emphasis is placed on describing and providing adequate training and resources to teachers while promoting students with outdoor and hands-on learning experiences that can foster a deeper connection with nature and an enhanced understanding of ecological principles.

    In sum, this book offers approaches that will support and enable educators to re-think and challenge many of the metaphors and practices that have shaped school systems while also offering inspiring case examples of innovative practices that have moved in new directions for sustainable environmental education. This book should be helpful to School Boards and related organizations as they assess their current situations and needs for action and resources.”

     -Milt McClaren, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University, Teacher Education 

    “Ecological Principles for Sustainable Education: Challenging Root Metaphors and the Industrial Schooling System is a necessary read for any person involved with educational systems. Most educational change literature focuses on one area of transformation (usually pedagogy), and merely calls for transformation. This book is not that. This book examines the educational system from all leverage points of systemic change, recognizing that the worldview of the stakeholders is of paramount importance, and calls for all educational professionals and stakeholders to examine the "why" of the system they work in, and how their own thinking and understanding of the world and themselves creates the system. It also calls for collaboration beyond a sense of what has previously been touted as "best practice" to create meaningful change, and delves into the practical how of redesigning what school is and how students are educated at every level of the system. Dr. Ireland succinctly elucidates why and how the industrial model of education sabotages previous change models and provides meaningful illumination to a path forward, out of the Anthropocene, into the Symbiocene that reflects how our planetary systems work. This book is a guide to how we need to change education, literally from the grounds up to the policy, procedure, and ways of knowing and interacting with each other and the world around us. I urge everyone to read this, share it with your friends, local school professionals and board members.”

    -Nicol Suhr, Principal

    "Every now and then a book comes along that frames complex issues with clarity and resonance while providing insights to guide our way forward. Liza Ireland's Ecological Principles for Sustainable Education: Challenging Root Metaphors and the Industrial Schooling System is such a book. Through analysis and story Ireland leads the reader to better understand how our current approach to schooling is not fit for the purpose of building an eco-centric foundation to support a sustainable future for all living beings on the planet. The author reveals the Industrial provenance of mainstream schooling and demonstrates how a re-design for ecological principles can transform curriculum, teaching and learning, and school governance including the physical classrooms, buildings, and grounds typical for the places we call schools today. Ecological Principles for Sustainable Education is a fascinating and clear-eyed look at where we have been, where we are, and how we can shift course guided by the inspirational stories of innovative educators and school communities who are pointing a hopeful way forward for us all."

     -Dr. Patrick Howard, Dean of the School of Education, Teacher Education Standing Committee of EECOM