Date of Award

Spring 2006

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Mimi Larsen Becker


My teaching practice and research is about holistic education which assumes that, at some fundamental level, everything is connected. Holistic education is a philosophy, a worldview, that challenges the fragmented, reductionist, mechanistic and nationalistic assumptions of mainstream culture and education. The ultimate goal is to transform the way people look at themselves and their relationships in/to the world from a fragmented to an integrative perspective. This emerging paradigm can also be called ecological, evolutionary, spiritual and global. There is a growing belief that such education is fundamentally spiritual, in its search for wholeness.

Western civilization has been dominated from its Graeco-Roman beginnings by separateness which was given philosophical legitimacy by Aristotelian logic and theological legitimacy by Augustine. The entire Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm is built on this reductionist, pragmatic philosophy. Many great scientific discoveries have resulted from this model. However, in the light of serious degradation to the biosphere, many scholars and physicists now recognize an implicit wholeness and connectedness. Our educational models need to reflect this unity and, as such, holistic education has the potential for transforming the world, each individual-in-relationship at a time.

This dissertation explores and develops an emerging educational model aimed at helping students come to a deeper and broader ecological-spiritual awareness and attitude toward nature through a spiritual identification with it. I argue that this 'identification' actively facilitates and promotes a change in students' behaviour toward the environment and thereby supports a sustainable, ecological ethic. The model will be grounded in case studies from the classroom, follow-up interviews, the writings of various classic and contemporary writers and hands-on experience with teachers and practitioners.

The writings of my students in 'their own words' and text excerpts will be woven throughout. The aim of phenomenological 'truth' is expressive disclosure of immediate experience that enables, in this case, eco-spiritual learning to be seen. So, I offer up some of the students' reflections to see what can be uncovered in our search for understanding what might be involved in eco-spiritual learning and transformation.