In 2000, Ontario schools removed environmental studies and environmental science material from elementary- and secondary-school curricula. Without exposure to that field, how were students to know the importance of environmental studies to the world around them, and that environmental studies was even an option at the university level?
Thanks to the York Environmental Education Consortium (YEEC), young people do know this field of study exists. YEEC has worked hard to ensure that environmental awareness is incorporated into school curricula.
A consortium of district school boards in southern Ontario and York University, YEEC was brought together by York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) and Faculty of Education. Participating district school boards include Durham, Halton, Halton Catholic, Toronto, Waterloo Region, York Region and York Catholic.
“The purpose of this consortium is to support teachers in their efforts to deliver the Ontario curriculum as well as to encourage the development of environmental literacy across the curriculum,” says Professor Lewis Molot (right) of York’s FES. Molot is in his second year as Chair of the YEEC.
The consortium has so far produced seven resource units for elementary and secondary grades. The units created to promote ecological literacy were developed from three main ideas: sense of place, ecosystems thinking, and human impacts. For further details, visit the FES teacher resources page.
In addition, the consortium is developing new curricula units relating to climate change, for high-school teachers, that build on the previous work done by YEEC under Molot’s chairmanship.
The course units are created by teachers from participating school boards, each unit taking approximately one year to complete. “We have most of the first drafts done, and all the units should be completed by March 2004,” said Molot.
Funding of $160,000 for YEEC came from the Ontario Climate Change Education Project, part of Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada’s Climate Change Action Fund. Partners in this project also include the Science Teachers Association of Ontario, Toronto Region Conservation Authority, Learning for a Sustainable Future and Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy. Contributions in kind brought the total project funding to $228,570.
Molot and Richard Christie, who is head of the Environmental Education Department of the Toronto District School Board, are co-leaders of the project. Eleanor Dudar, a York FES alumna (MES ‘93) who also works for the Toronto board, is the project manager. David Green of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority is a member of the project steering committee.
The above information came from Mari Leesment, a first-year York MES student working with FES External Relations.