As adjunct faculty at Sofia University, I developed and currently teach a series of classes that approach ecological literacy through several lenses: ecopsychology, environmental activism and justice, religion and spirituality, and the arts.
Together these classes challenge students to investigate pressing ecological issues in an transpersonal ecopsychology-based foundation designed to: 1) empower and strengthen their personal relationship with the Earth, 2) develop their creativity and communication skills to support their personal vision of environmental stewardship, and 3) invites them into inspired, confident and engaged participation in the global effort towards an ecologically sustainable society.
My philosophy of teaching:
As an instructor, I embrace a holistic, whole-person learning model engaging students on intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical levels with integration via creative expression and communal/global involvement. My intention is to present material to students in an accessible format using texts, videos and experiential exercises that will inspire students to bring their own wisdom, experiences, life stories and creative expression to bear on the topic of ecological studies. I agree with Thomas Berry’s statement: “Our educational institutions need to see their purpose not as training personnel for exploiting the Earth but as guiding students toward an intimate relationship with the Earth” (Berry, Dream of the Earth).
I believe in the extraordinary power of storytelling—written, visual, and oral, as a method that allows people to gain critical insight into their own relationships with the natural world and with other human beings, and to develop empathy and respect for one another. My classes encourage students to tell their own story of their relationship with the earth and nature and empower actions to strengthen those relationships.
Ecopsychology studies the interconnectedness between humans and the more-than-human world and views humanity’s dissociation from the natural world in recent times as a contributing factor in increased psychological, physical and spiritual distress. This class will introduce the field of ecopsychology with readings and video assignments from leading thinkers and writers in the field. Students will be introduced to such concepts as the ecological self, the ecological unconscious, biophilia, nature deficit disorder, ecofeminism, transpersonal ecopsychology and the psychology of the climate change crisis. Current research into the benefits of human/nature interaction for physical and psychological health will be examined along with various ecotherapeutic modalities arising from applied ecopsychology. Weekly experiential exercises and the Council of All Beings ritual will provide students with opportunities to expand their sensory awareness, engage in mindfulness practices in nature and explore their own sense of the ecological self.
Social and Cultural Eco-perspectives
This class surveys a broad range of current and historical literature of ecological literacy and movements. Students will develop a project based in the concepts of sustainability and systems theory and will engage with the natural world to enhance awareness of their bioregion and deepen knowledge of their personal ecological perspective. Topics covered will include early pioneers of the modern environmental movement, indigenous wisdom on ecological perspectives, deep ecology, ecofeminism, sustainability and systems theory, environmental and climate change justice movements.
This class surveys the current literature on connections between spirituality, ecology, environmentalism and the spiritual movement towards a sustainable planet. Topics include the roots of "green" religion/spirituality and the influences of the ecology movements on various religions; animism and indigenous perspectives on spiritual ecology; sacred places; psycho-spiritual experiences in nature; earth-healing and contemporary community rituals; the Earth Charter and inter-religious dialogues on ethics; and the new cosmology. Students will explore their own sacred relationship with the earth, and may develop a final project that will include a community offering in spiritual ecology that intersects personal and planetary healing and sustainability.
Ecological Identity—An Arts-Based Perspective
“Ecological identity refers to how people perceive themselves in reference to nature, as living and breathing beings connected to the rhythms of the earth, the biogeochemical cycles, the grand and complex diversity of ecological systems.” ~ Thomashow. In this experientially focused class, students will explore their ecological identity through guided exercises and creative expression that allow for deep engagement with the intelligence in nature through expansion of sensory awareness and right-brain processes. Assignments will primarily consist of films and documentaries that explore themes related to the ecological self.
Students will engage with a chosen place in nature weekly and will keep a visual ecological identity journal consisting of collages, photographs, found objects, paintings, drawings, prose, poetry, etc that reflect their responses to, and messages from nature. Students will visit an art gallery or museum in their local area for immersion in artistic responses to the natural world. A final project will include the creation and development of a “sense-of-place map” that will allow for deep immersion and reflection on the student’s relationship to the natural environment of their place of birth and other lived places pivotal in various phases of life cycle development. The sense-of-place map could consist of a series of drawings, paintings, collages, soul collage cards, mobiles, maps, video or a powerpoint presentation that forms a creative expression portfolio on ecological identity.
Psychology for Sustainability
What is sustainable behavior? What cultural and human behavioral factors have contributed to the environmental crisis now facing the planet? How can psychology contribute to shifting humans towards a more ecologically sustainable future? This class examines the issue of sustainability through psychological theory and research. Topics covered will include developing an ecological worldview, the growth in green psychology, theory and research in changing unsustainable behavior, the cognitive roots of environmental degradation, motivating factors, healing the split between planet and self, and developing eco-resiliency.
I also offer community-based workshops in eco-therapeutic practices that help to build eco-resilience in this time of ecological uncertainty, as well as creative arts workshops.
The following two ecospychology workshops were co-created with Rebecca Lexa of Watershed Ecotherapy and Kim Smith of Portland Community College and GPSEN (Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network):
Strategies for Hope and Resilience
In these times of accelerating change and challenge where we are bombarded daily with news that numbs and overwhelms the spirit, how can we build hope and resilience? What practices may assist us in navigating the turbulence occurring socially and ecologically? How do we build stronger internal and external supports for sustainability personally and for our communities? This training provides practical strategies and tools for cultivating hope and resilience from an ecopsychology perspective.
Facing Climate Change Workshop
Facing Climate Change identifies the psychological barriers that inhibit our sense of efficacy, such as fear, time, and self-limiting frames of actions and outcomes, and offers tools to overcome adversity, develop communication skills, and build our resilience. This workshop will use lessons from ecopsychology to help you build your own reserves of personal resilience so that you can face what you know and read about climate change with clear eyes, not sink into despair, and learn practices that will be psychologically supportive and empowering.
The following workshops have been presented at a variety of venues in Portland and in California:
Celebrate Your Spiritual Autobiography
In this safe circle for women, we acknowledge the gifts and inner resources we bring to the world and activate support bringing our inner radiance into new expression. We look to ancient myths of the Sacred Feminine to gain clues and insights for examining our own spiritual journeys with fresh eyes. We use a combination of creative writing and collage exercises for inspiration and guidance.
Creating the Sacred With Gaia – A Creative Writing Workshop
This writing workshop explores our relationship with the natural world by using our creativity to deepen our connection with the Earth. Reading short passages and poetry, we gain inspiration for our writing while opening ourselves for some visioning for the new earth we are co-creating with Gaia. This workshop focuses not on producing perfect writing, but rather on being in a supportive atmosphere to give voice to what is wanting expression about our connection with earth. We write together using timed writing exercises and share our writing with each other. Participants explore their relationship with the earth by allowing the inner voice to be expressed in a supportive atmosphere. The readings and prompts are conducive for going inward and being in a meditative, reflective state. This inspires us to creatively move beyond our small individual selves and into a more intimate relationship with nature and a larger sense of ecological community.
Contact me to explore facilitation of a workshop for your group.
New: Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Campus Hub: Read the Case Study on these workshops I co-developed “Strategies for Hope and Resilience” and “Facing Climate Change.” This was an outstanding project created by the Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network and we were honored these workshops were chosen in the final 30 out of 360 applicants for the AASHE Sustainability Awards!
Follow Kathy’s blog at Sacred Art Journey Blog
Ecopsychology articles by Kathy:
Looking for a facilitation for your group?
I would love to create something for you. Please review the offerings to the left and then get in touch.