Roads to arts-based research with SCC and SES

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"Scripting the Environment" book cover

As part of Royal Roads University's efforts to advance arts-based research, Geo Takach of the School of Communication and Culture (SCC) recently put theory into practice in a cross-faculty collaboration with the School of Environment and Sustainability (SES). Geo’s mission: to bring the subjective, emotionally engaging and transformational power of artistic media to the traditionally science-based field of environmental studies, and inspire public engagement and action on critical environmental issues like climate change.

Drawing on his chapter in a new American collection, Environmental Communication Pedagogy and Practice (Routledge, 2017), and on his recent book, Scripting the Environment (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), Geo brought his arts-based approach to teaching a first-year residency course in SES’s MA in Environmental Education and Communication (MAEEC) program helmed by Hilary Leighton. Dr. Leighton describes the effort as "a robust revision of our foundations of environmental communication course and an enlivened classroom experience." As she observes, "This cross-pollination brought MAEEC fresh skills and experience with an interdisciplinary emphasis on translation skills using realistic, practical and arts-informed applications that will now be woven throughout the program."

Although some students found the practice of sharing their research through artistic media a step beyond their comfort zone, the first-year MAEEC cohort embraced the challenge with aplomb. Classroom presentations of their work took the form of dramatic (including comedic) skits based on a current case study on the proposed expansion of the Trans-Mountain pipeline to Burnaby--so current that the then-newly elected BC government announced its position on the expansion that very day. The students’ final projects included work in media such as eco-theatre, collage, video, poetry, picture book, podcast, creative non-fiction, poster, puppet-show script and children’s story.

"This is a fine example of how schools at Royal Roads can work together to serve our students even better," observes Julia Jahansoozi, director of the SCC. "Communication transcends disciplines, and the School of Communication and Culture is always willing to help."

Next up in Geo’s mission: continuing a collaboration with Asma-na-hi Antoine, Royal Roads' manager of Indigenous Education, to share his SSHRC-funded arts-based research on how Indigenous knowledge can inform Canadian environmental policy relating to coastal protection and energy pipelines. The duo presented a glimpse into this work at Royal Roads' Leadership Conference in October, and is slated to share a synthesis of the research with federal policy-makers in Ottawa later this month.