Picturesque, in person
A large bird
soars overhead, as if surveying the group below. One student leans forward on the
metal guardrail and looks over the edge into the depths of the Grand Canyon.
he says, taking a sharp breath. He is seeing the Canyon for the first time, but
it’s a typical reaction for even the Northern Arizona University students in
this group who have been here before.
today is philosophy lecturer Matthew Goodwin. This trip isn’t an excuse to get
out of the classroom. Goodwin organized the trip around the curriculum of his environmental ethics course, which focuses on the ways in which
people can generate emotions as a result of
experiencing their education, not just absorbing it.
Learning to be amazed
began with an idea Goodwin had when he requested to teach environmental ethics
this past spring.
learn about environmental ethics without being in the environment,” Goodwin
says. “Going to the Grand Canyon, because of its proximity to the Flagstaff
campus, was a natural choice.”
this goal, Goodwin received a grant from the Northern Arizona University Parent Leadership Council, which, in addition to advocating on
behalf of the parents of students, uses donations to fund projects that enhance
learning on campus.
students a great opportunity to think more deeply about things we have
discussed in the classroom,” Goodwin says. “We can bring it full-circle out
here and make it relevant for them. This class is thinking about a lot of
environmental concepts. In the classroom, this can be very abstract, so by
bringing them out here, they can not only visualize nature — hey can also feel it.
explains that too many people incorrectly believe that seeing something through
technological means – television, pictures, or the internet – is an adequate substitute
for experiencing it themselves.
anticipate what the Grand Canyon is by looking at pictures,” Goodwin explains. “It’s
just a small glimpse of what it truly is. Too often, people get their idea of
nature from the Nature Channel. When you get out into nature, it is so much
From painting to teaching
who have been to the park multiple times cannot compete with the knowledge and
insight of Bruce Aiken, an Honors Faculty in Residence who
accompanied Goodwin and the students on the trip. His time at Northern Arizona
University partially funded by a grant from the Arizona Public Service, Aiken
and his family lived in the canyon for more than 30 years.
time, he worked for the National Park Service, while painting what are widely
considered to be the some of the most vivid depictions of the chasm ever
captured by an artist.
is more than just a vista in a painting for Aiken. The world-famous artist
considers it his home. Goodwin says he didn’t have to ask Aiken twice – or even
once – to come.
very excited about sharing what he knew about the Grand Canyon, including his
experiences and his insights,” Goodwin says. “I had originally just asked him
to come speak to the class, but when I told him that we planned on driving up
here, he asked to go.”
were afforded a chance to spend the day listening and learning from Aiken, who
has had his works featured in the White House and by NASA.
talks were amazing,” Goodwin says. “I was blown away by what he said – he
really brought the issues the Grand Canyon faces to the students and made them
relevant. He was able to point out things about the Canyon that most wouldn’t
have seen. He was tremendously inspirational for the students.”
Nature in danger
glad that his students were able to see the Canyon and marvel at the incredible
rock formations through a scope he brought along. However, much of the
education that took place at the Canyon was not about geology, but about how
the environmental protection of the national park has been breached in the past
and may be violated in the future.
hiked out to Maricopa Point, where a pier of the Canyon wall juts out into the
abyss. Here, Goodwin showed the class the Orphan Mine, where uranium was mined
out of the wall of the Grand Canyon for almost twenty years until the shaft’s
closure in 1972, when such mining became politically unpopular. The cleanup of
the mine is still ongoing, and has cost the federal government millions of
dollars thus far.
we’ve been talking about environmental issues, which includes mining in the
Grand Canyon,” Goodwin says. “There is still contamination from mining here. We
can talk all the time about environmental degradation in the Grand Canyon, but,
when students actually go out there, they can see the smog and haze. It becomes
a real thing – that’s part of the experience.”
the goal of his class is to get students to think about ethics as more than
just the way people treat one another – both now, and after the class is over.
ago, ethics was always just about ethics between people,” Goodwin says. “Then,
we started thinking about other forms of ethics. An entire generation said,
‘You know, we need to think about the responsibilities we have.' It’s thinking about global issues with regard to nature, animals,
habitats, future generations, and the health of the world, as a whole.”