Human Ecology

Introduction and “Why Human Ecology?”

Human Ecology, is the interdisciplinary study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social, and built environments. Quite simply, Human Ecology is the core of our academic program. It occupies the largest amount of time our students have on their schedule. When we combine the daily time spent with that of the Writing course, which integrates the themes of Human Ecology, our students are spending nearly half of a typical school day in the study of Human Ecology. When we add in our Field Studies components, which are hands-on travel-based explorations of these themes, students will spend over ½ of their annual credits immersed in the study of Human Ecology. A teacher of ours once said “your schedule is your mission.” In this regard, we have kept human ecology at the center of our mission and our schedule.

This begs a bigger question−“Why Human Ecology?” We live in a time increasingly defined and determined by human relationships − to one another and to the natural world. These relationships have been central to our history, fundamental to the current state of the world, and critical to our future. This school is dedicated to exploring and understanding these relationships so that we can help create thriving and restorative communities.

Why Human Ecology during adolescence? Adolescence is a time of massive growth and change. It is a time when kids search for their identity. It is a time when they begin making their own emotional, ethical, and philosophical stances. In short, it is precisely the ‘developmental window’ when kids are consciously and unconsciously focused on these very relationships that Human Ecology holds at the center. The discussion on process below explores this a bit more.

Why interdisciplinary? David Orr points out that “The kind of discipline-centric education that enabled us to industrialize the earth will not necessarily help us heal the damage caused by industrialization.” The hidden curriculum of traditional schooling teaches kids that learning is something to be done indoors, in 45 minute chunks of discrete information, done in rows where you listen to the one expert lecture about a topic, and is measured best by standardized tests. The Sage School teaches relationships, teaches systems, and models the importance of relationships in our structure and content. We want our hidden curriculum and our overt curriculum to align. We want to produce students who can understand that discipline centric knowledge is helpful to study a specific topic, but that understanding an entire system takes many pieces and parts, and often is greater than the sum of those parts. Human Ecology is one of our main vehicles to accomplish these goals.