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.
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 New York
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.