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Integrating History, Ecology, and Indigenous and Ancestral Wilderness Skills

February 3, 2011

Orange County, CA Coast Live Oak SchoolHistory is the study of events of the past and the people who witnessed and shaped these events.  The question that history asks is: “What happened in the past?” The understanding of history encompasses many areas of knowledge:  art, music, language, archaeology, economics, science, and mythology.  Knowledge of history gives a person a much greater understanding of other cultures, and of one’s own culture and the past that has shaped it.  Knowing the history of the place you live can give you an understanding of human and natural energies that shaped the place into what it is today, and how it might change.

One of the limitations of history is that it generally treats the natural world as simply the backdrop to the drama of human actions.  This is a problem.

Ecology is the scientific study of interdependence in the natural world and interconnection between living beings.   The questions ecology asks is: “How are these things that I observe connected?” Ecology relies on the fundamentals of scientific inquiry and the understanding of many scientific fields such as biology, geology, and chemistry.  However, unlike many other scientific fields, it does not always look at the world through a microscope.  Ecology instead tries to see natural processes in a much larger context, and to understand the inter-relationships between processes; ecology endeavors to find connections in the natural world and understand these connections.

In our modern society, and in the majority of modern educational programs, the human world and the natural world are presented as separate.  This is also a problem.  The natural world and the human world are not separate.  In fact, the human world relies entirely on the natural world.  This is basic fact that many people have forgotten. The human world and the natural world is the same world.  This is a connection that we can learn to understand and comprehend.

Can we combine the study of history and the study ecology in a real and meaningful way?

The study and practice of indigenous and ancestral wilderness skills is where the understanding of history and ecology, of human actions and the natural world, meet in a very real and immediate way.  When we use just our own hands and a few stones (instead of steel knives), to shape familiar plants into a simple tool like a bow and arrow, a tool that all our ancestors have used for tens of thousands of years, the world becomes a more real and more connected place.

Integrating the knowledge and understanding of history and human culture, ecology and nature, and indigenous wilderness skills is important in our time because it compels us to remember that we depend on nature and the health and vitality of natural processes for every moment of our existence. This approach to teaching and learning leads us toward a comprehension of our dependence on the natural world in everything that we do.Coast Live Oak School

The approach of teaching history and ecology as integrated and inter-related study is mostly absent from the curriculum of elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and universities.  I think the lack of understanding that most people have of these two subjects, and the disconnection people feel and experience between the “human” and the “natural”, has led to many problems that we experience in the world today.

Learning the skills of our ancestors who lived more connected to the land, and the skills of indigenous people who are still connected to the land, is a way to give life, reality, and meaning to both history and ecology and to reconnect ourselves to the Earth and to each other as human beings.

At Coast Live Oak School we hope to give students of all ages the opportunity to learn and develop greater curiosity for history and human culture, ecology and nature, and indigenous and ancestral wilderness skills, in a hands-on and fully integrated manner.  Our goal is for our students to develop a deeper comprehension of how we as humans are connected to one another and to the natural living Earth.   We hope that through this integrated learning process our students can become more informed members of the global community and also be able to make decisions with their natural, inter-connected, wild selves.

Written by Mark Hay, Founder of Coast Live Oak School

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