Grad students plant FES seeds at Inglenook school


Lisa Mitchell, FES Speakers Series liaison person with Inglenook Community High School

A group of York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies graduate students set out to forge a link between high schools and the University and, especially, to spark high-school students’ interest in the environment and what York has to offer in that field.

The FES students recently helped organize a conference on activism and the environment for students at Inglenook Community High School. Inglenook is an alternative school, housed in a historical building in downtown Toronto.

The conference began with a keynote address by Farrah Byckalo-Khan, a York BES graduate, who considered the issue of anti-racism and the environment and the role that youth activism can play in supporting the environmental movement.

This account was sent to YFile by York MES student Lisa Mitchell, FES Speakers Series liaison person with Inglenook Community High School.

The Inglenook event was part of the FES Speakers Series, which endeavours to bridge the gap between high schools and the University, and to provide faculty and students with the opportunity to share their work with the broader community. Conceived and coordinated by FES Professor Deborah Barndt, the series also aims to help high school students develop an understanding of the broad range of possibilities available at York in FES.

The series team decided that the conference would be an ideal project for MES students in the “Popular Education for Social Change” course, taught at York by Chris Cavanagh and Christine McKenzie, both of whom are on staff of the Catalyst Centre for Popular Education and Research in Toronto.

Five MES students in the class took this project on as their practicum for the course. They organized a pre-conference workshop with the Inglenook students in late February to develop an understanding of what issues the high-school students wanted to learn about during the conference. The themes that emerged became the focus of the conference’s nine workshops, which were facilitated by MES students as well as people from the community.

The topics included a look at Toronto’s garbage problems and solutions; renewable energy opportunities and community project in Ontario; consumerism and the impact on the environment; challenges in the global food system and local alternatives; the impact of the Kyoto Protocol on Canadians; and youth activism in El Salvador vis-a-vis future of sea turtles in Central America.

For more information about the FES Speakers Series, visit