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Stewardship as a transformative practice: An inquiry into the nature of sustained involvement and ongoing learning of environmental stewards

Mark DeMoranville, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Abstract

Stewardship, a trust that we have been given to pass our Earth on to future generations so that they may benefit from its wealth as we have, is a powerful concept. The more that people can begin to understand it and harness it in order to set a course for action, the greater will be our cause for hope, and perhaps even optimism, about the future of the Earth and the lives our children will enjoy. ^ Increasingly over the past fifteen years or so, a number of small, community-based environmental groups have embraced stewardship as a core component of their mission. While their approaches to advocacy and action are diverse, and while the foci of their work may vary, these groups hold in common a deep sense of responsibility to preserve and protect the natural resources of their home place. ^ People engaged in the work of these groups, whether as volunteers, paid staff, or affiliates, come from a range of educational and professional backgrounds, as well as life experience. As a result, there may be a number of different reasons why they initially got involved, why they remain involved over a period of several years, and how they address any personal learning needs that arise from their involvement. Nevertheless, patterns may be discerned for all of these dynamics, across educational and professional backgrounds, as well as within and across different groups. ^ Further, there is a potential for meaning perspective transformation from engagement in community-based environmental stewardship. This takes many forms, with the end result a significant change in one's worldview. ^ Through a review of primary source literature produced by each of the three groups included in the study, a series of short, structured interviews with thirty participants (ten from each group), and a series of nine longer, unstructured second interviews with nine of the original thirty (three from each group), data was collected for the study. ^ Data was analyzed first by creating profiles of the three community-based environmental stewardship groups, using the primary source literature and interview responses. Categories within the four dynamics of personal involvement (patterns of initial involvement, patterns of sustained involvement, patterns of ongoing learning, and patterns of transformation) as well as organizational dynamics (patterns of community building, group dynamics) were discerned from the data and analyzed. ^ The results of the analysis offer a number of suggestions for stewardship educators working with community based environmental groups. However, it should be noted that findings from this research are not generalizable—the study was qualitative, and participants were not randomly selected. A number of suggestions for further research are therefore offered. ^

Subject Area

Education, Adult and Continuing|Environmental Sciences

Recommended Citation

Mark DeMoranville, "Stewardship as a transformative practice: An inquiry into the nature of sustained involvement and ongoing learning of environmental stewards" (January 1, 2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. Paper AAI3056218.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI3056218

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