OOS 8-4 - Re-visioning environmental learning to sustain communities

Tuesday, August 7, 2012: 9:00 AM
A106, Oregon Convention Center
David B. Zandvliet, Faculty of Education and Institute for Environmental Learning, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada

This paper highlights the efforts of a diverse group of educators enquiring into the practices of environmental learning as it is enacted in the formal school curriculum. The resulting framework published by the Ministry of Education (2007) aims to assist BC teachers of all subjects and grades to integrate environmental concepts into teaching and learning. Designed as a framework to guide teachers in their planning, the guide also supports the implementation of curriculum in diverse subjects like science, social studies and language arts. It is a guide to interdisciplinary practice — using the environment as an organizing theme.

This collaborative work of educators and academics builds on an earlier framework, first published in 1995. The guide and the preceding document were developed from the belief that students should understand both how and why the environment has an impact on their daily lives, and what kind of an impact they have on the environment. It builds on this belief with an integrated approach towards environmental learning as so many school subject areas touch on environmental topics in some way. By emphasizing that the study of environment is not a unique subject area, students will more deeply understand how their actions affect local and global environments.

Since the first framework document in 1995, there have been many developments in the field of environmental learning. These have been informed by agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, Montreal and Johannesburg Summits on Sustainable Development, and the proclamation of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. More important than these macro developments have been local political changes and a critical capacity in the teaching population to mandate a different way forward. This momentum has been accompanied by a great deal of research on how people learn. Still, all environmental learning aims to integrate this thinking and context into students’ everyday lives. In this presentation I share stories of how teachers are now enacting the framework.


Our efforts involved document analysis of frameworks from across North America and around the world.  Focus groups and teacher interviews informed a collaborative writing process that involved teachers and academics. The data share a number of themes around which environmentally-focused lessons may be developed. These multiple and overlapping perspectives help teachers to facilitate students’ varied ideas about the environment.  The presentation relates how environmental learning and experience together empower teachers to guide learning in new, exciting ways.