This big idea involves the way humans interact with the natural world.  At the core of this big idea is the notion that nature represents a significant source of expertise and humans have much to learn from the billions of years of evolution of the Earth’s living systems. For example, biomimicry refers to the practice of creating designs and processes that are fashioned after natural materials and systems. Similarly, new scientific approaches that combine indigenous knowledge and Western scientific methods have emerged in recent years. These include ethnobiology, ethonoecology, and ethnobotany.

This big idea also to do with developing an affinity for and understanding of nature that disrupts dominant discourses, such as “nature as something that needs to be conquered”, “nature as an unlimited store of riches and resources”, and “nature as amusement park and playground”.  Instead, education for sustainability promotes a more intimate response to nature. For example, E. O. Wilson used the term biophilia to refer to the innate emotional affiliation that humans have to other living organisms. This perspective can lead to a deep respect for nature in all of its forms, as well as a curiosity about the way that natural systems operate. This perspective also can lead to a desire for a more direct personal engagement with the natural world.

Learning in and from nature also help learners integrate otherwise abstract theoretical concepts into a more active and personal understanding. Education aimed at helping learners develop this connection can take place anywhere and does not need to entail an expedition to pristine wilderness. In fact, at the core of this big idea is the understanding that nature is everywhere, and that each of has direct access to nature each time we take a breath or look at the sky, or feel the sun’s warmth on our skin.

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