FES conference celebrates student involvement


(Above: student presentation)

York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies attracted over 230 senior high-school students and their teachers from 16 schools in the Greater Toronto Area to a conference at the University on Feb. 21, entitled “Celebrating Student Involvement in Environmental & Social Action”.

The conference took the form of plenary presentations by high-school students, displays, a variety of action workshops and a learning program for the teachers, all with the aim of promoting and celebrating environmental and sustainability projects created by high-school students in Ontario.

Jerry DeMarco, left, of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, a graduate of York’s MES program, gave the keynote address. The national non-profit organization, with a mandate to provide free legal services to environmental groups and concerned citizens, has been instrumental in advocating for environmental issues since its establishment in 1990.

Rather than having academics speak to the visitors, the conference was an opportunity for high-school students to present their environmental and community action projects to their peers.

School groups showed their leadership skills and social consciousness in a variety of areas, ranging from releasing brown salmon in the Black Creek and designing and planting butterfly gardens, to developing recycling programs in their schools. The conference left the clear impression that today’s youth are ready to respond to the challenges of sustainable development.

FES co-sponsored the event with Learning for a Sustainable Future – Ontario, a program linked to the York Centre for Applied Sustainability, and the York Environmental Education Consortium (YEEC), a grouping of environmental coordinators from seven district school boards in Southern Ontario.

Chaired by FES Professor Lewis Molot, right, who introduced the conference, YEEC supports the province’s teachers in their efforts to develop environmental literacy across the K-12 curriculum.