Australia Student Reflection: Meghan Manary
I consider my Australia Earth Expedition to be one of my greatest achievements in life. I now joke that nothing that I do in the future will ever matter because I have completed my life goal of studying conservation in Australia, which I once thought was unachievable (part of me is not joking though). I have not fully processed the Australia Earth Expedition, in fact, I don't know if I have fully processed any of my EE’s or my journey in this program. I am constantly learning new things about myself, like my enjoyment of writing, studying pedagogy, and conducting research, while also being able to apply it to real life situations. Is there ever an ending to processing that? Australia seemed to tie together my interests of wildlife research and environmental education into my last semester in this program which has significantly impacted my future and career goals.
Australia was the first Earth Expedition in which I changed from the MA to the MAT. Upon entering this program, I was very comfortable with biology and wildlife research practices so I stuck to those options when choosing group discussions for my first two EE’s. However, last year I realized that my career goals aligned more closely with the MAT so I decided to challenge myself for my final EE and be in the Participatory Education group.
For our group discussion, I recalled Freire’s (2020) concept of banking in education and my goal was to acknowledge his words that “knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention…hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other. When my discussion group members and I split into individual groups with our classmates I remember feeling the need to have extremely prepared material because it is what I am used to in my job. However, I trusted the process and joined my individual group, not necessarily as one of the discussion leaders, but as someone who wanted to learn from my classmates and could facilitate conversation only when needed. I was fortunate to speak about my experiences as an outdoor educator but felt an even greater sense of accomplishment when I was able to learn from others experiences like Julie and Ginger. I now try to implement similar discussions into my work with coworkers and students.
Many of Orr’s (1994) thoughts resonated with me and are relevant to my work. I work in an industry where, like Orr (1994) mentions, many believe that “with enough knowledge and technology, we can ‘manage planet earth.’” This mindset also seems similar to the banking concept in education because of the need for management over an outcome. As Orr (1994) says, “managing…has a nice ring to it…it appeals to our fascination, but complexity can never be safely managed.” We, as humans, tend to like control and know the outcome of things we are working on. However, there is beauty in ecosystems that are unmanaged and unpredictable, just as there is beauty in learners deriving their own unmanaged and unpredictable meaning from non-banking education.
Lastly, Orr’s (1994) statement that the planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, lovers…people who live well in their places…people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world a habitable and humane place” inspires me to apply Freire’s (2020) and Orr’s (1994) concepts throughout my life. I hope that my role as storyteller may create space for others’ inquiry, fascination, and restoration of the plant. I also believe that my experiences throughout this program, and especially on the Australia EE, gave me the opportunity to become a better educator and become someone who helps make the world a more habitable and humane place.