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McConnell, Christy

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This naturalistic, non-experimental inquiry explored relationships among life, human life, and place in school communities along with their expressions in school curriculum. I used educational criticism and connoisseurship to richly describe, interpret meaning, evaluate significance, and discern thematics surrounding relationships and how those relationships were expressed in the curriculum. Postmodern ecology provided the framework for acknowledging ecological precarity and performing the critical, as in essential, work of deconstructing what harms life that could be reconstituted as nourishment. The first study question was: What relationships exist among life, human life, and place in school communities? To answer the question, ecological data collection included historical landscape changes, ecological observations outside the school building. The second research question was: How are those relationships expressed in the curriculum? To answer the question, four teachers in three suburban schools who included ecological relationships into curriculum, more-than-human life in curriculum, went outdoors with students, and/or taught interdisciplinary lessons. Initial interviews were conducted. Participant observations were bookended by pre/post interviews with teachers. Curriculum materials included planning documents, lessons, materials, and experiences. For both study questions, I maintained a field notebook and reflexive journal throughout the study. I found that ecological structure, lawns, and educational structure permeability played an important role in movement around the schoolyards and the curriculum. Teachers skillfully crafted curriculum where predetermined content met their own intentions. The resulting educational situation was fluid and cyclical. At the confluence of flows and cycles, I found that the schoolyard was an ambiguous place in the communities at large and that many lifeforms at the suburban schools. There were many relationships that existed in and around the schoolyard that were commonplace or every day. I propose a new type of curricula, the camouflage curriculum, that holds more opportunities to connect academic content to specific places. The significance of the findings was a reframed view of suburban schools. The findings supported the addition of place to Eisner’s ecology of school. The camouflage curriculum opens a portal to renewed relationships among life.


306 pages

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Copyright is held by the author.