Environmental Ethics Outreach

Students who study environmental ethics (Philosophy 331) have an option to participate in a community outreach project with students at Ponderosa High School. This project is coordinated by a team of students who have completed or who are enrolled in the class. These students work closely with the faculty at Ponderosa, Rachel Steagall, Chair of the Math and Science Department, and John Taylor, the Sustainability and Innovation Coordinator. Students develop a two-part lesson related to what Ponderosa students are studying in their science class. The first part of the lesson is classroom based and focused on philosophical concepts and analysis. The second part of the lesson is field-based activity, where students have an opportunity to see how the concepts apply to the natural world.

NAU student mission statement for environmental ethics outreach

To actualize participants full potential by facilitating an opportunity to foster critical thinking and engagement with the environment in a creative and supportive atmosphere.

The Environmental Outreach Program was inspired by Jacqueline Mackey, who graduated with a degree in environmental studies from NAU in 2011 and is currently enrolled in an MA program at Prescott College. Students enrolled in environmental ethics at NAU in the summer of 2011 developed Jacqueline’s idea as part of their coursework. They worked as teams and developed a curriculum, structured a budget, created a marketing plan, incorporated GIS technology, designed a logo, and wrote a mission statement. Their creative and productive efforts were informed by their study of Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Peter Singer, and Jack Turner. Students used GPS devices to locate indigenous species like agave and sugar sumac. They discussed how the Sinagua used such plants and how it affected their relation to the land. The pilot program included discussions about Leopold’s Land Ethic and the land community. 


High School Student Program Testimonials, 2014


“It was amazing. I made friends and had an amazing time."   

“I liked the movie...and I liked the discussion of the Colorado river and how it was getting lower and how to find out ways to save it."

 “[The tour of NAU campus] was the best field trip ever, I learned a lot and think I want to go to college here!” 

Pilot Program Testimonials, 2011

“There was a moment on Tuesday when I looked around at my classmates and found it interesting that these were philosophy students participating in an outdoor project with children. It struck me as being unique, and yet, seemingly natural. Of course Environmental Ethics students, who have spent the last month considering our relationship to the land and the implications of our actions on it, would be involved with such a project. The marriage of philosophy and action is a natural one. When Socrates (or Plato) says that an unexamined life is not worth living, he means for us to examine, ask questions, and then live accordingly. The point is to live. Hopefully all future participants of MyEarth Adventures will do the same.” --Krysta Best 


“I also appreciate the attempt to link philosophy with practical endeavors. I’ve never believed that philosophy was irrelevant to the so-called ‘real world’ but I tend to view great philosophy as providing the impetus for revolutionary change rather than as encouraging the gradual improvement of one specific facet of society—in the case of MyEarth Adventures children’s outdoor education. Despite my continuing preference for big ideas and revolutionary change, I think it’s worthy and admirable to contribute to the betterment of a community, and if one chooses to base that effort on the shoulders of great writers and thinkers, so much the better.” --Tim Durkin 


“With all the hard work our class put in to creating this program in theory, the kids are the ones that brought it to life. Their enthusiasm and willingness to participate was beyond what I was expecting. The trial run gave us a great example of what MyEarth Adventures might look like and I’m excited of the potential it has. I think every single one of us got the feeling that all our hard work was for something that is really going to make a difference in the youth. I can’t do anything but smile when I think about the possibilities this program is capable of.” --Gus Loaiza 


“This was the first philosophy class I have ever taken and I honestly used to be very skeptical of the subject. I heard the horror stories of how philosophy degrees got people jobs as waiters. Being an engineering major, it was hard for me to see the need for philosophy; it seemed as if the subject lacked any real world applications. This class completely changed my perspective of philosophy and made me realize I was erroneous in my earlier judgments. Philosophy helps us think critically and analyze why we value certain things in life. This project was a perfect way to bridge the gap between theory and reality, with regards to philosophical inquiry. By getting the kids to think about nature in a different light, we could get them to really think how they value their natural surroundings. Furthermore, so much of public policy is influenced by philosophy and public policy heavily influences a myriad of aspects in our life.” --Jason Hertzberg.