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  • Sandra Ericson

Human Ecology education -- How core is it to growing up?

Does Human Ecology knowledge 'sculpt' your life, or is it "just home stuff" nice to know but not really necessary.

Answer: It sculpts your physical life and your thinking, belief systems, social relationships, self-confidence, and mental health. It is what you need to know to live your whole potential lifespan. Someone recently described it as the "head, hands, and heart education.

Next question: How does it do that? Let's go down the list and match the content to the gains, starting with learning to meet our fundamental human needs of food, clothing, and shelter.

Human Ecology education is performance-based learning, meaning that the experience of active learning often 'teaches' more profoundly than teachers can. Many schools commonly refer to courses with experience included as lecture/lab courses; however, for underfunded schools, corners are often cut to eliminate the need for more expensive laboratories and equipment it requires. Lack of funding also eliminates life learning programs in favor of professional education, forgetting that no job is secure. Today, resilience gained from human-life-based education has become a critical characteristic for survival between jobs as society changes rapidly.


As an educational subject, this term includes the food industry and its practices, business models, and food purchasing, preparation, storage, presentation, and sanitation. A thorough understanding of foods is crucial to health and lower medical costs throughout life. The knowledge changes with time as it is based upon FDA rules, phases of life, and access, due to either local resources or income. When taught in the lower grades, the study of foods and the experience of working directly with food preparation, storage, and sanitation, leads not only to self-sufficiency and better health but the scientific realities of the kitchen are an early introduction to science. As we struggle with the decline of faith in science throughout the pandemic, it is essential to realize that direct experience with a scientific phenomenon in your own kitchen also imparts confidence and trust in science. Seeing the effects of heat, cold, and spoilage, for instance, teaches essential lessons about physics, biology, microbes — and vaccines.

Clothing:  In this transitory age, we rely more and more on first impressions when we meet

someone; we make on-the-spot assessments about trust, attractiveness, culture, and social status based on those impressions. And fortunately or not, first impressions stick with us. Attitudes and prejudices form over time, and we unnecessarily avoid people or, based on looks, we are wrongly attracted to others. In addition, professionally, we also make judgments about the business the person represents. "Power suits" do convey power, rightly or wrongly earned.

Globally. the fashion industry churns out billions of garments each year, as third-world countries now reject a glut of 'recycled' garments no one wants. It is one of the biggest drains on global sustainability in the world. The study of clothing composition, design, construction, use, and care delivers an appreciation of the craft skills that assure fit and attractiveness and the quality needed for long-term service, less waste, and owning fewer garments. Learning those skills provides us significant economic value over time. Psychologically, it is a proven premise that people who feel comfortable and appropriate in their clothes enjoy better mental health and are more socially confident.


Shelter means your four walls, whether a room or a house and is directly related to mental health. Each person has a physical context, their surroundings, which influences their mood, sense of safety and security, and satisfies the need for privacy.

Research has long proved that clutter prevents clear thinking, lack of light promotes depression, and some colors in a room can negatively or positively affect human psychology, from anger to peace. A poor arrangement of furniture can impact convenience, movement, and comfort. The scale of furnishings, or lack of work space, may foster frustration, loneliness, or irritability. These are human reactions that predictably occur in unfavorable spaces.

Designing a room or home that enables people to feel good and reflects who they are, gives them a physical and psychological home base from which they can live, think, work, or host a friend. The study of interior design enables greater productivity and social interaction.

Complex Social Systems:

In addition to the "basics," there are now many structural social systems to navigate. These algorithmic human services systems provide the basics for contemporary living in the U.S. They are critically important for a functional and prosperous life at any income level and fundamental for a secure family. The systems include finance/economics, legal/justice, medicine, education, government programs, transportation, consumer protection/fraud, and technology. These social systems are complicated to access and use; therefore, learning to use them safely must begin in the early educational years, one by one. They are fraught with technological intricacies that can have dire consequences if an individual does not understand how to navigate them. 

Psycho-social skills: 

Human Ecology also sculpts the mind, the thinking about personal, social, and professional life. Life-management crises poorly handled cause people to form anti-social tribes, seek simple solutions to complex problems, become angry, and turn to violence when they cannot understand how society can work for them. Those reactions are common to human nature and have caused nearly all the world's revolutions once they reach a tipping point in the population.

Psycho-social skills form the social lubricant that supports mental wellness and lets human beings develop relationships, be they professional or personal, and also a sustainable relationship with the natural world. Learning these skills enables us to relate, feel empathy, show compassion, help, love, and support others as well as ourselves. SEL, the socio-emotional learning skills, is integral to each person's personal human ecology. They comprise the cultural, emotional, and social intelligence that results from learning about commonly shared human conditions, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, or social status.

All of these various segments that fill our private lives, including the natural environment, must be understood to bring balance to each life. It becomes even more challenging for our families as we live with greater urban density and a widening income gap; and now, in addition, we must face climate change and the need to adapt.

That is why Human Ecology programs are an educational necessity, a critical priority.

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