An important personal piece featured in Science impresses upon us that deep learning and academic success must be founded on lived experience.
Anderson Eduardo-Santos, a master’s student at the University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, wrote a beautiful personal piece about work life and career featured in a January 2022 edition of Science. Anderson describes how he felt out of place at his university as a gay black man who grew up on a farm in northeastern Brazil. Being surrounded by professors and students who did not look like him or have his same background made him doubt the value of his personal, lived experience with nature that had initially motivated him to pursue scientific study. He shares a story about feeling too uncomfortable to use the familiar name of a type of bee he grew up with in a presentation for fear it would be considered incorrect. It wasn’t until a professor encouraged him to dig deep into his world of personal knowledge on the bee and utilize it in class that he felt he belonged – that his past life was important for informing his academic studies.
Anderson’s story reflects our belief that deep learning and connection with nature only happens when students feel personally involved. We believe at New Jersey Institute of Nature that curricula must be created to allow students to learn in a hands-on way and encourage them to find a personal storyline that motivates their interest in nature. The importance of diversity in life experience and upbringing among students can never be emphasized enough.