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Julie Phillips

College Instructor & Nature Based Teacher for over 27 years | Tule Elk Biologist and Researcher | Environmental Educator and Education Advocate for over 40 years

Nature Based Teaching with Julie Phillips

Nature Based Teaching includes the Natural Sciences, the Environmental Sciences with a focus and passion for Nature!

Nature Based Teaching and the Natural Sciences are an essential discipline and lesson plan for all students in K-12 as well as colleges and universities! 

Welcome to Nature Based Teaching and the Natural Sciences – An Essential Daily Classroom

BLOG Podcast on Nature, Nature based teaching, the Natural Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Science, Teaching and Learning and more!

I was always someone who loved nature, loved being outside and always wanted to learn more! I wanted to know how things work outside! I loved to hike and explore the out-of-doors and when I grew up, we could hike and explore for hours on our own – sometimes for a whole day! As I crawled on sandstone rocks and explored the sand hills, creeks and river near our home looking at the sky, chasing butterflies, watching birds, and discovering native plants – I kept wanting to learn more! I wanted to know how this place and all the natural life there worked! I was really lucky to get to meet a Botanist when I was in the 5th grade who lived near our home that loved plants including native plants! Mr. Osborne began to teach me about plants – how to plant, grow and nurture these plants as well as their importance.

The more I learned, the more questions I had! I hadn’t learned about any of these topics in my early school years even though we lived in the middle of this beautiful natural area in the mountains! I certainly learned many interesting things about other disciplines and other subjects but not about nature and the out-of-doors that I felt passionate about!

I went onto college and eventually completed a graduate degree in Wildlife Management and was really lucky to research the Tule Elk of California (a subspecies of North American elk found only in California). Being a woman in the sciences and a field biologist in the 1980’s especially a women studying elk was interesting to say the least! I will save that story for another time!

But my early education and my college experiences in the sciences helped take me on a journey to bring more nature based teaching and environmental science and education into the day-to-day classroom. I wanted more for students, the public and our community and believed, at that time, that it was imperative to educate others about those natural systems and processes that support all life and Earth and for us, humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) and all other life on Earth. I was blessed to have a couple of teachers in the Environmental field that helped me understand the absolute necessity of protecting of those systems and the engaging students and the public in this effort! And the role that humans were playing in impacting these systems.

After graduating and completing over 7 years of field research, I was convinced that Frank Schiavo and Don Aitken (Environmental Pioneers at SJSU) were right! It wasn’t enough to study science and the environment, it was also essential to include stewardship, leadership, and sustainability in our students daily lesson plans and education!

So I began to teach at a local community college. In California there are about 110 community colleges statewide and cc’s accept the top 100% of all students that apply! The CCC is an amazing system and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students by helping to connect them to nature as well as the importance of stewardship of nature and our environment is hopeful!

I began teaching general education classes in the Biological Sciences. Although I enjoyed working with entry-level students in the sciences, I felt something was really missing from the course content. There are so many topics and the natural sciences, stewardship, sustainability, leadership and more! I really wanted students to learn “how does the Earth and nature systems work?” How does the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the lithosphere and the biosphere work?

I wanted more and believed the students needed more from our offerings! So I began a journey to design a series of new courses. It took awhile and it certainly wasn’t easy! Expanding beyond traditional science courses wasn’t always popular and that is one of the reasons it had not been accomplished (to a large degree) in the past. There are examples of women and others trying to expand our teachings into the natural sciences for many many decades and the efforts against it were real!

I knew it would not be easy, but was convinced it was an absolute necessity and my ethical responsibility as an educated citizen and scientist in the 21st century. So I found those advocates and visionaries within the CCC system and we worked in a team approach to adding new courses and eventually programs in the field of Environmental Science (which can also be called the Natural Sciences and Nature Based Teaching) and Sustainability.

I believe Environmental Science (again also the Natural Sciences) and Nature Based Teaching is one of the most important disciplines today! It should not be only offered at the college level, but also introduced and taught on a daily basis to all students from throughout the K-12 system, colleges and universities!

Along with English, Math, Reading, the Arts, the Sciences including Geography, Geology, Astronomy, Biology, Physics and Chemistry and more – the Natural Sciences also called the Environmental Sciences and Nature Based Teaching and Learning is absolutely essential!!

And after over 27 years teaching and expanding offerings in this amazing field, as well as watching the impact of these courses on students, I am convinced it is absolutely essential to each and every one of our students! It changes students’ lives and brings out a passion in them not often seen these days! It takes awhile, but once they start to look up and really listen, the transition and passion that comes forth from students is amazing! The most often statement I heard in my many years of teaching these amazing lessons, was “Why didn’t I learn this sooner??”

I am excited to share this incredible disciple and field of study with you over the next several months in a series of podcasts! I also offer a series of lesson plans, including illustrations, drawings and diagrams that will help you introduce these amazing topics to your students!

Over the next several months, I will be highlighting an overview of this amazing discipline and field of study including a description, learning objectives, key vocabulary and concepts, course outlines, teaching and learning spaces, indoor and outdoor learning activities and more!

Let the journey begin! It is time to transform education as we know it and make nature based learning a part of our every day lesson plan! Learning about those natural processes and systems that sustain all life on Earth like the air, water, soil, species, landscapes and ecosystems is critical to address the local and global challenges that we all face! Learning about stewardship and sustainability of our natural systems is essential to protect our Human Systems and “our home”!

Onward as we explore how nature works, what is our connection to the Earth and other life on Earth and how do we continue to move in a sustainable direction.

I hope you will join us for Podcast #2 next week as I give an overview of the Natural Sciences (also called the Environmental Sciences and Nature Based Teaching)!

I am Julie Phillips and thank you for reading the Nature Based Teaching BLOG

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