Osel Group’s model was inspired and conceptualized from a synthesis of diverse literature, such as sustainable education, transformative learning theories, placed-based learning, indigenous learning approaches, experiential learning, eco-literacy, curriculum theory and conceptual change in science classes. Transformative processes are necessary to change the prevalent anthropocentric eco-paradigm of western culture toward more sustainable values and behaviors. “Connecting Hearts, Empowering Minds, Sustaining Humanity” – this is a holistic approach to develop ecoliteracy introduced by Orr (1992) and expanded by Sipos, Battisti and Grimm (2008). The model shows the holistic nature of transformative experience and relates the cognitive domain (Mind) to critical reflection, the affective domain (Heart) to relational knowing and the psychomotor domain to engagement (Sustaining Humanity).
Love of place and a sense of connection or belonging are foundational toward development of sustainability values. Critical ecological educators have claimed that love of place is the key to fostering sustainable behaviors. People care about and tend to who or what they love. Affect or emotions determine what we pay attention to, what we value, and how we make judgments and decisions. Emotions are the reasons for action and change because emotions are the context for interpreting and responding to experience. Research shows that active environmentalists attribute their commitment to the environment to love of a special place in nature as a child or adolescent, and sharing nature experiences with a beloved adult mentor. This love of nature may need to be triggered by experience or will otherwise remain dormant. To inspire children to consider environmental behaviors and develop into adults that make ecologically sustainable decisions, it is important to provide opportunities for children to have prolonged experience in natural settings and to bond with a place rather than gloom and doom curricula about faraway places.
It is believed that transformative learning requires independent, active learners while children are considered to be dependent, passive learners. Unfortunately, passive learning is fostered by the current educational system that does not utilize natural learning processes. The natural curiosity and active role of children as learners has been emphasized in various learning theories by Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner and Dewey (National Research Council, 2000). In Taking Science to School (NRC, 2007) young learners are described as active exploratory learners and research is provided that supports that children’s thinking is surprisingly refined. Students who take responsibility and an active role in their learning are called self-regulatory learners and often possess an internal locus of control. Research in self-regulatory processes and internal locus of control has shown that these processes are teachable and can lead to increases in student motivation and achievement (Zimmerman, 2002; 2008). When people affect changes in their immediate environment, they affect changes within themselves; this can lead to greater self-efficacy and more responsible behavior in other areas as well. (Rathzel & Uzzell, 2009).
Ecological sustainability, as defined by the Brundtland Commission, means to meet the resource needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The lack of sustainability values and the anthropogenic environmental paradigm of western culture are evidenced by the large ecological footprint of developed nations; therefore, education for sustainability is necessarily transformative. The goal of education for sustainability is to transform the environmental perspectives of the learners from viewing the environment as a commodity to a community, from consumer to conserver, from short-term reactor to long-term evaluator. Changing and expanding worldviews of learners is the goal of transformative learning.
Connecting Hearts, Empowering Minds, Sustaining Humanity, collectively, we must do more.