SELAL publication in Environmental Education Research Journal
The SELAL team published an article on in April 2017, embodying one of INOGO’s central goals: sharing strategies for sustainable development. SELAL Co-coordinators Austin Cruz and Samantha Selby, along with Co-Director Bill Durham, published Place-based education for environmental behavior: a 'funds of knowledge' and social capital approach in the journal Environmental Education Research.
The article discusses the need for a new approach to environmental education in rural and underserved communities in Latin America, arguing that community resources (funds of knowledge and social capital) should be incorporated (or change to integrated) into the current best practices of place- and community- based environmental education (specifically promoting environmental behavior).
The article attempts to show how community resources can be important in modeling and teaching environmental behavior to students and learners, in general. This method of promoting environmental behavior would naturally be suited and specific to the local context. There is not a lot of academic literature focused on environmental education and environmental behavioral change in underserved rural communities in Latin America, or in areas that are highly biodiverse. In these communities, it is highly important that the local community is empowered in decision-making that impacts their resources and environment. These community resources can be leveraged when they are identified by educators and integrated into the learning process, especially when this integration is done in a socially and culturally meaningful way to maximize the agency and power that the students gain. For example, a biologist in the community can be asked by teachers to share information about plants and animals native to that region, adding the context that these species are one of the reasons that ecotourism is popular in the area.
The article highlights the importance of local culture and social norms in how environmental education is structured, taking into consideration factors such as socio-demographic and linguistic backgrounds. The roles of the family and the community are also emphasized, as they are key to providing support systems and working to meet the community's needs.
SELAL, as it was previously structured, is described in detail in the article, which notes that the most impactful component if the program was indeed the interactions with local community members who engaged with the class to share their various areas of expertise. These interactions allowed students to clearly see the connections between their studies and the world they would enter following their high school studies. Anecdotally, this led to students expressing a renewed interest in both academic and community engagement.
Thus the model described by Cruz et al. (2017), very simply put, is that through the engagement of community leaders in teaching, trust was formed. With this trust, came the opportunity for community leaders to serve as role models or inspirations, and the potential for students to advance further either in their environmental behavior and/or career goals. Lastly, this course of actions resulted in the generation of increased resources for the community, in the form of the knowledge and abilities now present in the students.