The recent Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference has made me think a lot about connections.  If you go back and look at the conference schedule, you’ll be struck by the number of presentations that were concerned with building a stronger and more connected educational community.  My own paper at VWBPE discussed how we can use each other’s work in our teaching; I talked about how much I owe to the work of others, and after a tour of my teaching space, I asked participants for ideas about how they might use what I have built for my classes.

Many of my field trip assignments are visits to sites that at first don’t seem to be related to women’s and gender studies. However, students soon learn to make the connections. I’ve just marked a paper that demonstrates this very clearly, and with my student’s permission, I would like to share it with you.

center f water studies_001After studying the question of whether water is a women’s issue, my student visited The Center for Water Studies on Better World Island. Her reaction to the site demonstrates the power of situated learning in an immersive space, and shows how a bright student can use spaces like this one to work through important issues. I love the connection she makes between violence against women and environmental destruction.

 

Field Trip to the Center for Water Studies, by Elaine Riley (SL)

I took a very interesting field trip today to the Center for Water Studies in Second Life. When I first got there I was on a beach. This climate was a warm water ocean environment. There were other environments on this little island including a red wood forest, a small duck pound with beavers. There was also a waterfall with a natural spring. It was very beautiful.

I also found a wheel chair on the beach and in my mind I was thinking ‘why would there be a wheel chair on the beach?’ I found out that there is a wheel chair on the beach to open people’s minds to new experiences and step outside their norms. People can explore the ocean and island in the wheel chair in order to experience the virtual world around them in a different way.

Well, I was ready to open up my mind and see and learn about everything this place was willing to teach and show me. I found that there was a charity at this center in Second Life called Charity: Water is matching donations made in second life. They believe that the water crisis can be solved. I found this charity’s purpose to be very moving.

As I kept exploring I flew up to this blue platform that was full of information about our oceans. I learned that when companies dump their toxic wasted into our oceans and rivers and lakes it causes some serious consequences. First the waste is toxic so it is poisonous to humans, animals and even plants. All of our rivers, lakes, and oceans are connected so the waste might only be dumped in some areas but it will eventually spread. When the water is evaporated it then goes into our atmosphere and then can be returned to the earth as precipitation. Now the water has made its full cycle and can be found in our soil. This means that the toxic chemicals and poison find their way into our food so we are ingesting them, breathing them, and drinking them. This is a very scary thought.

To me, water is the essence of life. We need it to live but it also gives us something more. It provides us with fun and adventure through water activities like swimming, boating, and fishing. Water is peaceful and beautiful. One of the most relaxing things is to sit by water and just listen to all of the sounds. The ocean usually makes me feel calm, happy, and curious. I have always found water and water life to be extremely interesting and I love to learn about the different species and plant life under the water. When I was exploring under water at first it was really cool to see all these things in a virtual world, Water is important to humans because it is the source of life, but it also provides us with entertainment and fun activities to do. There are definitely practical uses and fun uses of water, but it is more than that as well. Water and the places like the ocean definitely make a person feel that there is so much more out there. It puts things into perspective that the ocean is so vast and the world so large.

All of these thoughts were flooding my mind when I was exploring, but then I came across the pollution. This started to make me feel sad and anxious. I started to read about all of the pollution and I was looking at all of the terrible pictures of the pollution and the wildlife that were being hurt or even killed by the waste. I found information about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the central North Pacific Ocean. It is hard to determine exactly how large the garbage patch is because most of the debris is right at or right below the surface of the water, which makes it hard to detect. Some estimates of its size are 700,000 square kilometers to more than 15,000,000 square kilometers. The sources of toxic waste in the oceans include human activities, company’s waste, sewage, and run-off pollution from pesticides, just to name a few. After I was done exploring and learning I thought about Suzanne Pharr’s article, which a portion is listed below.

Suzanne Pharr’s article, “Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism:”

“On the day that I stopped reacting to attacks and gave my time Instead to visioning, this simple germinal question came forth for the Workshops: “What will the world be like without homophobia in it—for everyone, female and male, whatever sexual identity?” Simple though the question is, it was at first shocking because those of us who work in the anti-violence movement spend most of our time working with the damaging, negative results of violence and havelittle time to vision. It is sometimes difficult to create a vision of a world we have never experienced, but without such a vision, we cannot know clearly what we are working toward in our social change work.”

This passage makes me think that if the world were able to move past all of these negative thoughts and if social change really did happen then we would be able to focus on things like environmental change. If we all just cared and loved for one another then that love would also continue to our planet including all of our oceans, and wildlife. Water is a women’s issue because just like women are disregarded and oppressed so is our environment.