Walking ecopedagogy: a study of embodied ecological (re)praxis

Year: 2021

Author: Blades, Genevieve

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Ecopedagogy is an emergent theory and practice in environmental education research. Walking as an educational practice is widely recognised as a mode of experiential learning. Yet the empirical evidence of walking as ecopedagogy is under researched. This paper draws from the author’s PhD that (re)turns to the sensory, embodied and affective dimensions of environmental learning in the outdoors (re)presented as a walking ecopedagogy. The research problem is to interpret and understand the nature of walking as embodied practice in various scapes of nature. Having the twofold purpose of decentring the human and centring nature, the embodied analysis aims to demonstrate an environmentally embedded walking practice as ecopedagogy.  This ‘critical engagement’ seeks to question the conceptual, methodological and ecopedagogical challenges facing outdoor and environmental education research and practice more broadly, such as enduring theory-practice gaps/limits to praxis and theoretical idealisms/abstractionism. An autophenomenographic approach is used to explore experientially, the subjectivity of the researcher/walker and how this can be decentred in ‘less’ anthropocentric thinking and representing of, the ‘nature’ of walking in selected environments/natures/scapes in Australia. The framing of the study is guided methodologically by two ‘eco’ lenses of ‘ecophenomenology’ and 'ecosomaesthetics’. To understand embodied experiences in nature, ecophenomenology not only questions the nature of experience but relations with/in/of the experience of nature. Also, to access walking as embodied movement and meaning-making with/in nature, the conceptual thread of ‘ecosomaesthetics’ is used, whereby the nature of inter/intra-actions between eco(ecology), soma(body) and aesthetic(time-space) are present in the analysis. Using auto/sensory/ethnographic methodologies, data are (re)presented via sensory narratives. Empirical 'scoping' of material, aesthetic and embodied dimensions are inductively accessed and abductively (re)assembled as descriptive interpretations of walking with/in scapes of nature. In other words, this methodology senses, perceives and empirically ‘observes’ and then ‘represents/non represents’ many ecophenomena. The ‘findings’ reveal the nature of walking as relational, spatial practices (embodied natures) and temporal events (past, present, future) such as ‘wandering’ and ‘wayfaring’ encounters. It was found that these ‘encounters’ occurred over different time-space scapes, with various environmental, aesthetic and affective affordances. These findings are (re)assembled as an ecopedagogy of walking by highlighting possible and probable ecopedagogical processes as/in scapes that are embodied and ecologised practices. This research (re)presents an inductively sourced and driven ‘practice theory’ of walking as embodied (re)praxis and it can be anticipated that the reflexivity of the field will be critically advanced in outdoor and environmental education.