Art-Based Environmental Education
Art-based environmental education is a balanced amalgamation of art education and environmental education. The approach for this discipline has two defining traits. First is that it refers to a particular kind of environmental education that has artistic inclination and roots. Art here is not an additive feature or aesthetic element. It, in fact is the point of origin towards an effort to discover ways to connect people to their environment. The second defining trait of art-based education is that it is one of the first of the modern approaches to bring together artistic and environmental education and practices.
The roots of Art-based Environmental Education are in Finland where the term was coined by Finnish art academician Meri-Helga Mantere in the 1990s. Art-based Environmental Education may be defined as a form of study developed with an intent to cultivate an understanding of the environment and inducing a sense of responsibility. This is achieved by becoming more sensitive to your own sensory perceptions and observations and through artistic methods and techniques expressing personal interpretations and experiences about the environment. The underlying principle of Art-based Environmental Education is that sensitivity to the environment may be developed through artistic explorations.
The first phase of Art-based Environmental Education in the 1970s focused on visual imagery of the ecological crisis. In the second phase however, individual first hand experiences of the natural and the created or simulated environment became representative. It is in this second phase in the 1980s that the idea of building a relationship with nature through human senses began to take shape. The teaching finally moved out of the classroom as the teachers put trust in experiential learning now. The students in this scenario are encouraged to broaden their sensory horizon through artistic practices and endeavors ranging from drawing, painting, sculpting, to creating artworks from natural materials, to planning and designing conceptual art. It is through these practices that the students identify and study their individual relationships and interaction with the environment that surrounds them. The artistic result is not the emphasis in this form of learning. The larger goal or intent is to engage the senses of the students emotionally and to help them evolve and hone their capabilities to foresee the traces we’d be leaving on the landscape.
It partially enables one to experience environment through the arts and art through environment, and partially orients the students’ artistic visions, to observe, analyze, and interpret the aesthetic traits of the natural and simulated environment that surrounds them. Another approach, a little different from the Finnish one has a tendency to keep the entire flow of events open-ended and to not work systematically towards a predetermined and defined end. The Finnish approach advocates approaching the contemporary issues of values and lifestyle stemming from the ecological crisis as this approach has the ability to reach otherwise inaccessible areas of experience.