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January 2021 Educator | Resource of the Month

The Center for Diversity and Social & Economic Justice Educator|Resource is a monthly feature that highlights curricular resources and social work educators who address diversity and justice.

Natural Connections: Embodying Relationship With the Environment

Interweaving Indigenous and Western Ways of Knowing

“I have spent my life playing with, being held by, supported, nurtured, and taught by nature. I am from a generation where the natural world was deemed safe by adults and those in power. I learned about collaboration and patience interacting with the life that surrounded me near the Wild Rice River in rural Minnesota.” Approaching environmental justice as healing, Dr. Leah Prussia offers a conceptual framework to help MSW students understand and embody the importance of their role as social workers who support human beings as well as our natural environment. She reminds us of the original human connection with the environment and how fractured relationships or disconnection with the environment negatively affect human beings and the natural world.

Teaching Resources 

In the webinar provided here, Dr. Prussia describes the application of an approach that helps reconnect, reclaim, and resume the relationship between human beings, nature, and all that lives, which she teaches in her course, Somatic Literacy: Clinical Collaboration with the Natural Environment. The approach mixes traditional and Western knowledge by combining tenets from Indigenous wisdom, relational-cultural, and polyvagal theories. The webinar also includes somatic literacy skills that help the psychological, physiological, and spiritual systems harmonize in healing. Ultimately, the hope of this approach is that personal recovery through relationship with the environment expands and comes full circle to contribute to necessary planetary healing. A list of suggested readings supporting this approach is provided.

WEBINAR: Natural Connections: Embodying Relationship with the Environment 

Webinar PowerPoint Slides


Q&A: Educator Pedagogical Approach 

Summarize your teaching philosophy.

I view myself as a tour guide in academia, pointing out areas of interest, engaging students about their interpretation of specific informational encounters, facilitating discourse and open query about topical landscapes, as well as ensuring safe discomfort with the unknown.


Read full Q&A 

The views expressed in the Educator|Resource are those of the educator(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council on Social Work Education.

 Contact Dr. Yolanda Padilla, CSWE Diversity Center Director, at [email protected].