Thesis: Materiality in the Park

  • ClientNorth Carolina state University

  • Year2011

Thesis: Outdoor Education: Visual Strategies for Environmental Awareness

The following text describes one component of an educational activity/experience that is aimed to teach 6th grade students about issues related to environmental awareness. This is one part of my thesis investigation.

The series of visual studies I have completed for this investigation aim to educate 6th grade students about current issues that affect the environment and the potential for these issues to cause serious, long-term problems. The educational experiences created by this series of explorations is directly related to nature and engages the students as they hike along Falls Lake Trail. The subject matter that each exhibition showcases demonstrates the impact that humans have on the environment and encourages students to think about the long-term effects of their actions and choices. The main topics covered within these explorations deal with the impact of man-made materials on the environment, the impact of these types of materials on wildlife, specifically water fowl, and how water pollution impacts the quality of water in Falls Lake. Students will be accompanied throughout this entire experience by an Environmental Education Center staff member, a teacher or other adult.  This allows for the student to build a mentoring relationship with that staff member, teacher or adult and provides an opportunity to discuss what they are seeing and experiencing in this setting. Educating young students about the importance of nature preservation is a vital component to their development and to their understanding of environmental issues that have a direct impact on their lives and their future.

This exhibition is the first visual component that the students discover while on the hike. There is a total of four cubes positioned on pedestals as they make their way along the trail. Inside each cube is a specific material that is commonly found in or around the park. These materials include: plastic bottles, aluminum cans, orange and banana peels, and styrofoam. Each display represents of a specific subject focus. These subjects include: materiality, recycling, composting, material effects on wildlife, and material effects on the environment. Each category informs the students about specific environmental issues and gives them more information regarding the subject, as well as providing them with imagery and a first-hand look at what materials do in a park setting. Located on the outside of the cube is a timeline that explains the lifespan of a specific material. It also demonstrates what the material looks like in its present state, and what the material looks like over time. Information regarding the amount of time it takes to decompose is also present on the cube. This creates a way for students to think about the amount of time that materials can last, and encourages them to think critically about the best way to dispose of or reuse materials.

The purpose of the cube exhibit is to encourage and stress the importance of environmental preservation. Issues such as pollution, materiality, decomposition, recycling, and composting are used to teach the student about the affect that materials have on the environment. By explaining and showing direct correlations between imagery and the lifespan of certain material, the student begins to understand that some materials are more harmful to the environment than others. It also shows students that there are certain actions they can take such as recycling or composting, to limit the effects materials have on the environment. This demonstrates to the student various cause/effect relationships. The exhibit explains complex processes, such as how to make their own compost, and provides students with detailed information about how this process works and outlines environmental benefits.

There is a total of four exhibition cubes. Each cube, and accompanying pedestal, display text and imagery that corresponds to the following subject matter:

Recycling- The system and process of recycling is outlined for students including; benefits, statistics, and information about recyclable materials.

Composting- The process of how materials decompose is outlined for students. The text provides explanations for the benefits of composting, as well as a comprehensive list of materials that are compostable and why.

The Impact of Pollution on Humans and Wildlife- The effects of pollution on humans and wildlife are described for students. The long term affects of pollution and how and why pollution happens is also outlined.

The Environmental Impact of Pollution- The effects of pollution on the environment, as well as the long-term issues is described for students.