Biocitizen - New York

School of Field Environmental Philosophy

About Biocitizen New York

Biocitizen NY offers Field Environmental Philosophy (FEP) programs for students 6-16 in outdoor classrooms throughout the New York metropolitan area and beyond.

Here in our Hudson River Estuary biome, or at our schools in Los Angeles, Westhampton, MA, and Concon, Chile, Biocitizen teaches environmental science and philosophy in a way that exercises the body as well as the mind.

We bring students outdoors to investigate that which encloses us.

In the tradition of Aristotle, our teachers teach while walking, guiding students into the world so they may discover their world.

Our days are fun and active, and designed to “unplug” the learner by bringing them into direct, participatory contact with the ecosystems, infrastructures and histories that surround them. We’re on a treasure hunt for natural and cultural signs and stories; when added together they amount to “our place”.

The essential activity of FEP is reading the environment; FEP increases students’ perceptual abilities, stimulates critical inquiry and thought, inspires the creative imagination, and counteracts “nature deficit disorder”.

FEP brings them to their cognitive, intellectual, and physical edges because there—on those edges—is where real, positive character growth occurs.


Teachers

Frieda Lim

Board Member, NYC
"There are two things that interest me: the relation of people to each other, and the relation of people to land." ~Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work
Located

New York, NY

Executive Director
Founded

2019

0
Students

What is Biocitizen?

The word “biocitizen” is a contraction of “biotic citizen,” a term Aldo Leopold (1887–1948). One of our nation’s first wildlife managers, he is widely celebrated for conceiving the “land ethic.”

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.
It is wrong when it tends otherwise.

Leopold realized this while serving as the Forest Supervisor of the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico. Following the standard game management practices of the early 20th century, he exterminated wolves to increase the deer population for hunters. Without predators, the deer population skyrocketed—and crashed due to overgrazing and desertification. Leopold’s actions shocked him. When thunderstorms came, he watched fertile topsoils wash down from the mountains into the rivers, there being no living plants to stop the erosion. Knowing the management strategies he learned at Yale had failed, a chastened Leopold saw the wolf with new and profound respect, appreciative of its key role in sustaining the “biotic community” he was paid to care for. The wolf, he realized, was a better wildlife manager than he was!

This discovery (made outside, not inside) led him thereafter to question untested assumptions about how humanity fits into the designs of nature. He used what he learned to help his culture to discover and value biodiversity, and the larger family of life on earth that we belong to.

Leopold distinguished between two ways Americans relate to nature, one typical of pioneer culture and one newly emerging that is dedicated to inhabiting land sustainably.  We “see repeated the same basic paradoxes: man the conqueror versus man the biotic citizen; science the sharpener of his sword versus science the searchlight on his universe; land the slave and the servant versus land the collective organism.”

His biotic citizen is our Biocitizen: one who enacts the land ethic in everyday life, behaving as a “plain member and citizen” of a biotic community that “include[s] soils, waters, plants, animals, or collectively: the land.”

Drawing upon Leopold’s legacy of ideas and intentions, which in turn are rooted deeply in Western philosophy, Biocitizen provides students a hands-on introduction to the “ecological interpretation of history” at sites where they can perceive themselves and the land as a “collective organism.”

Leopold was an instrumental ecologist, forester and environmentalist and co-founded the Wilderness Society. In 1949 wrote his landmark, A Sand County Almanac, a collection of essays describing the land around his home, Sauk County, WI, for advocacy and the responsible relationship between people and the land they inhabit.

Biocitizen welcomes Tamar Cox Rubien, Field Environmental Philosophy Assistant Teacher !!

Biocitizen is so pleased to welcome Tamar Cox Rubien as an assistant Our Place Summerschool teacher! Tamar is a seeker of wisdom, cultural and ecological, and is looking forward to exploring New York City with students with our special focus on how it is placed in the Hudson River estuary biome! Personal Statement My name...
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Biocitizen welcomes Blaze McClurkan, Teachers’ Assistant

Biocitizen is so pleased to welcome Blaze McClurkan—of Gowanus—as an Our Place Summerschool teachers’ assistant! Blaze was a counselor in training in 2019 who put on her walking shoes and helped us get kids off the screen and into the marine biome that is NYC. She returns brimming with energy and ideas, and professional experience...
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Biocitizen welcomes Ezra Kohn, Field Environmental Philosophy Assistant Teacher

Biocitizen is so pleased to welcome Ezra Kohn as an assistant Our Place Summerschool teacher! When we first met Ezra, he told us about he worked a number of jobs teaching children, and that his favorite experience was assisting a forest stewardship program for kids aged 6-11 in his senior year at Wesleyan University. He...
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What We Teach

Biocitizen school is a Leopoldian school that specializes in teaching the “land organism” via Field Environmental Philosophy (FEP). The word “biocitizen” is a contraction of “biotic citizen,” a term Aldo Leopold (1887–1948) used in A Sand County Almanaca text that forms a foundation for Deep EcologyOne of our nation’s first Federal wildlife managers, Leopold co-founded the Wilderness Society and, in response to the environmental impacts of our culture, is widely celebrated for conceiving the “land ethic”:

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.

It is wrong when it tends otherwise.

The biocitizen is a person who abides by this ethic. Our school creates them through an inquiry-based FEP curricula that combines book-learning and teacher instruction with directed exposure to environmental subjects, anywhere.

We inculcate students with the ecological, cultural and existential information they need to understand that 1) “where they are is who they are” and 2) that their place is alive, a part of a land organism (a watershed-, ecoregion-, biome- habitat). With that understanding, the land ethic makes sense and can be abided by.

How We Teach

We teach in classrooms with texts in the traditional manner, but what makes our school special is our FEP curricula takes students into outdoor classrooms— “places”—and, through the peripatetic method, investigates its biocultural history.

No matter the age of our students: we are on a treasure hunt; we are detectives; we are hunter-gatherers; we are story-tellers; we are active, interpreting the place physically, intellectually, aesthetically, emotionally. We can raise the subjects and inquiries, or we can let the students raise them—but teachers must orient the investigation so it reveals the biocultural history our students’ own story is nested in.

Biocitizen teachers are masters of the story of the place the class investigates. Teachers must know as much of the biocultural history of the place as they can, and part of that knowledge is knowing: what is the best, most interesting and challenging, way of walking through it? Where will our students discover the most? That is where they are taken.

An FEP curricula can be executed anywhere, in wilderness or the city; because it is a reading of signs expressed naturally and symbols expressed culturally. The story of the place is articulated through these signs and symbols: that is what biocitizens (learn to) read.

We teach the environment the same way English teachers teach literature: by reading it with students, and getting them to write about it (i.e., to re-present through symbols what nature expresses as signs). The environment is not a book, though. It’s reality itself. And when we teach it, we curve everything back to the land ethic, imagining and fashioning the story we want to live in, because we live in stories as much as we live in the land organism. We teach as readers, and writers, of reality; that’s how we teach. That is what makes us and our school special.

Why We Teach

Biocitizen exists as a non-profit corporation to employ teachers who are capable of using it as a conceptual space for heuristic, pedagogic and educational experimentation, to achieve the Leopoldian goal of promoting a biocultural, historical way of understanding reality while culturally instilling the land ethic.

At this time, our nation’s epistemology (its structure of knowledge and values) is disintegrating, and Biocitizen can play a leading role in developing and executing FEP curricula. FEP is important because most people do not know where they are (e.g, where their essential resources come from, what the history of inhabitation is, etc.). As the megamachine, our current blend of humanity and technology combined, falls apart, the bioregional perspective we cultivate will be very valuable. To survive in a place once meant knowing it; biocitizens (will) know their place.

We teach to learn.

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Biocitizen New York

Biocitizen, Inc.

BiocitizenLA is a 501(c) non-profit educational organization that provides immersive and experiential learning for ages 6-16, via Field Environmental Philosophy (FEP).

Biocitizen LA is the West Coast arm of Biocitizen, Inc.. Biocitizen was incorporated in 2009 to provide educational services within the field of environmental philosophy, including operating a school that teaches this subject in both traditional indoor classroom settings and outdoors at local, national and international sites. To ensure its educational services are of the highest quality, and reach as large an audience as possible, Biocitizen conducts scholarly research, develops curricula and syllabi, trains teachers, and performs public outreach through a website, the giving of lectures and presentations, and through the creation and dissemination of educational materials in print and other media.