The Seedfield Podcast Season 2 recap photo. Children's playing with recyclables

Big Idea: Environmental Justice and Environmental Education at Antioch

“You must praise the mutilated world,” wrote the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski. But in an age of worldwide environmental crisis and collapse, how do we cultivate this appreciation, knowledge, and love? Across three recent conversations with Antiochians engaged in the work of environmental justice and environmental education, we heard multiple creative approaches. Here we look for common themes and bigger answers.

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Antioch University offers online and low residency degree programs in Environmental Studies at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, as well as a variety of certificates. Learn more!

Transcript for “Big Idea: Environmental Justice and Environmental Education at Antioch”


[00:00:04] Jasper Nighthawk: Welcome to the Seed Field Podcast, the show where Antiochians share their knowledge, tell their stories, and come together to win victories for humanity. I’m your host, Jasper Nighthawk. Last week, we released the final episode of season two and we’re nearing the one-year anniversary of our founding of this podcast.

To cap off a great year for the Seed Field Podcast, our editor, Lauren Instenes and I wanted to do something special and a little different, so we’re putting together three mini-episodes, minisodes if you will, that revisit interviews from this season, and pull out the themes that consistently run through them.

The themes we’ve seen emerge in our conversations this year really go back to the core of Antioch’s mission. I want to actually read that mission statement out loud because it’s really good, and also it’s just one sentence long. Antioch University provides learner-centered education to empower students with the knowledge and skills to lead meaningful lives and to advance social, economic, and environmental justice. I really liked that whole sentence, and especially the last part. I do think that what sets Antioch apart from many other universities is its explicit dedication to advancing social, economic, and environmental justice.

This really goes back to our first president, the famous education reformer, Horace Mann, who told the first graduates of Antioch to “Be ashamed to die before you’ve won some victory for humanity.” In today’s Antioch, you can see this directive placed at the core of everything we do. For instance, we use it as the tagline for this podcast. In a broader sense, this rallying cry inspires teachers to do their best to prepare students to join today’s most pressing challenges.

These questions of how to create more social, economic, and environmental justice are what drive this show and keep us excited to make it because we get to talk to scholars and educators, and students, and alumni who are passionately and brilliantly involved in solving them. For the next three episodes, we’re going to look back at how guests, this season, address these problems. For today’s minisode, I’m going to look at the creative ways Antiochians are tackling questions of environmental justice and education.


[00:02:44] Jasper: Learning about environmental justice can start in the classrooms of our youngest students. Jon Garfunkel, who teaches in the education program at Antioch Seattle told us about an aspect of environmental justice that isn’t always emphasized, looking closely at food. For myself when I was in elementary school, and through high school, and even into college, eating was always this thing that was separate from learning. It happened during breaks or at lunch. I think the only time food entered the classroom was if we’d earned a pizza party for good behavior, but maybe that was a missed opportunity on my teacher’s part.


[00:03:26] Jon Garfunkel: What we realize is that doing things through food can accomplish things that we often think we can accomplish without food, but through food, either accomplish it in a better way, more successful way, more enduring way, more sustainable way and that’s one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned and I think we collectively in all this work have learned, is that through food, we can address issues of climate change, economic injustice, racial injustice so many problems that we have in the world can be accomplished without food, but through food, they can be accomplished for the very reasons you were just giving that example, it brings people together. It’s that notion of convivium, community through food, food through community.


[00:04:15] Jasper: The key here, as John told our guest host Mair Allen, is to help students see what they eat is connected and part of global food chains and ecosystems and environments and really, the wider world. In some ways, food is the most tangible and intimate way that we can interact with our environment and ultimately, in his quest to bring edible education to students around the country, Jon is working to help students leave the place of passive consumption, and instead become active participants in preparing and even cultivating their own food. Jon believes that this is something that everyone can do, even with extremely modest resources.


[00:04:58] Jon: Reclaiming the commons or one’s own personal public space from parking strip in front of one’s yard, to an empty building, or even parts of parks that are unused, even public spaces like fence lines that go across public institutions, the idea of using those places and reclaiming them or repatriating them as places to grow food is as much a political act as anything else. I think in this day and age, statements like that send powerful, diverse messages to numbers of different stakeholders about the importance of those places, the use of those places, and the opportunity to grow food in places that serve the public, not just ourselves.


[00:05:53] Jasper: This idea came up again, and again, through these conversations that going outside, seeing what’s there, and getting your hands dirty, can be liberatory and transformative. Here’s Ellen Doris, faculty at Antioch New England, talking about outdoor education.

[00:06:11] Ellen Doris: When we spend time outdoors, one of the things that we see is how intricately everything is connected, and how we’re part of it all so I guess I’d like listeners to remember that they’re part of it all and important and that we each have work to do and things to offer and joy to find and even small moments outside can help us on our way.


[00:06:43] Jasper: Here’s Jim Jordan, from Antioch New England, talking about how important it was for him as a child to be taken outside, to go to specific places, and to learn about the world.

[00:06:56] Jim Jordan: When you’re in grade school and you take field trips, and I did too, and a few of them just resonate with me to this day, maybe eight or nine years old, 10 years old, had nothing to do with environmental studies, but they were out in the field and, boy, I just viscerally remember some of the things we were looking at, so many experiences. It’s transformative, it sticks with.

[00:07:24] Jasper: I love how these teachers we talked with emphasized over and over how important it was to foster in young people, this interest and this sense of wonder and love of the outdoors. In our conversation with Ellen, we also got to talk with Liza Lowe, who teaches at Antioch New England and runs our inside-outside network. She told us about how during the Coronavirus pandemic, many teachers have begun bringing their students outside.

[00:07:52] Liza Lowe: There have been so many more teachers who are interested, who have come to nature-based education or outdoor learning because really early on, we knew that being outside sort of the transmission of COVID was a lot lower, it was a less of concern, because of the airflow and whatever outdoors and so just taking your students outside was a safer place to be so there were a lot of teachers who jumped on board because of that. However, once they started taking their students outside, I think it was pretty quick that they noticed the benefits.

One of the things that we often talk about is children who don’t thrive as learners inside a typical classroom, go outside, and all of a sudden, not only their teachers and the other adults in the school, but their peers also see them shine and they can recognize how, “Oh, this child who I didn’t realize, has this strength.”

[00:08:52] Jasper: It moves my heart a little bit to think of a young person who’s having trouble in school, finding their strength outside. Another of our guests, Dawn Murray, who teaches at Antioch online sees the same potential to reach learners in new ways when she leads her college-level students into the field.

[00:09:13] Dawn Murray: We would meet at various locations, at a mountain, at a beach, at a river, at a lake, and just learn about conservation issues, ecology, endangered species, managing those areas. There is something very inspiring for kinesthetic and visual learners, something so important about being in the field, seeing the plant, touching it, smelling the land, the dirt, seeing the landscape that just settles with them and it’s something they don’t forget.

[00:09:55] Jasper: Here’s Jim again, taking what Dawn said even further.

[00:10:02] Jim: I think just as important is the building of community that just is unparalleled, in a curriculum, to go and spend time with a group of people and become colleagues, visit with experts in the field and these indigenous groups, with stakeholders, and really gel together as a group of folks on this learning endeavor is unparalleled, it’s transformative.


[00:10:47] Jasper: Finding and creating opportunities to connect with the world around us, both the land and everything that lives on it. To do this in a supportive learning environment, it truly benefits everyone, whether through doing field studies somewhere far from home or planting tomatoes in our backyards, these experiences leave us with newfound strengths and knowledge. Maybe most importantly, they give us a greater appreciation for the land and communities that sustain us. Thanks for listening to our first minisode exploring the larger themes running through the Seed Field Podcast.

I hope you’ll join us next week when our editor, Lauren Instenes takes us on a dive into mental health justice at Antioch. For full show notes, as well as transcripts, prior episodes and more, visit our website, The seed field podcast is produced by Antioch University. Our editor is Lauren Instenes. A special thanks to Karen Hamilton and Melinda Garland. Thank you for spending your time with us today. That’s it for this episode, we hope to see you next time, and don’t forget to plant a seed, sow a cause and win a victory for humanity. From Antioch university, this has been the Seed Field Podcast.


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