York offers graduate diploma in environmental & sustainability education

The faculties of Environmental Studies and Education have joined forces to bolster the teaching of environmental science and sustainability in Ontario by offering a new, joint graduate diploma program.

Over the past decade environmental education in Ontario has been threatened on number of fronts. In the mid-1990s, the provincial government eliminated environmental science as a stand-alone subject at the intermediate and senior levels. Then followed sweeping cuts of more than $4 million to the outdoor education area of the Toronto District School Board curriculum. The Graduate Diploma in Sustainability/Environmental Education is aimed at providing a strong foundation for educators in Ontario and preserving what some have called one of the best environmental and outdoor education traditions in North America.

sheridanMany teachers have been concerned that funding cuts and closures have progressively endangered a legacy of educational excellence. Worst of all, say critics of the moves, the cuts deprive the youngest of the urban poor of familiarity with natural environments that has historically been a hallmark of the Canadian experience. “It is absurd to diminish the ecological literacy of Ontario’s children at a time of ecological crisis,” said Professor Joe Sheridan, right, who teaches environmental education at York. “Outdoor education is the oldest education in North America and to deny its pertinence to another generation is to deny our identity as Canadians.”

dippoThe new graduate diploma has been designed to provide opportunities for educators in schools, community organizations, cultural institutions and advocacy groups to develop expertise and participate in research, theory and practice in the field of environmental and sustainability education. Sheridan and Professor Don Dippo, left, of the Faculty of Education, who were instrumental in the design of the diploma, both believe it responds to longstanding interest in environmental and sustainability education from teachers, graduate students, park interpreters and conservation authorities. Participants will be able to focus their studies on the environmental implications of education while at the same time examining its role in sustainability, broadly defined.

Reflecting on the partnership between the two faculties, Dippo pointed out that equity and social justice issues have been at the centre of the curriculum in the Faculty of Education for at least the past 15 years. “This graduate diploma recognizes sustainability as a social justice issue,” he said. “It is an opportunity for us to join with the Faculty of Environmental Studies to conduct research, develop theory and influence policy and practice in the area of environmental and sustainability education.”

The diploma has been designed in two modules: one available to students already enrolled in an Environmental Studies or Education graduate program at York, and one for those just interested in the diploma itself. Requirements for the first option include four half-courses in environmental/sustainability education, and a thesis. The second option, which is offered solely through the Faculty of Education, includes five half-courses in environmental/sustainability education.

“The Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University has been in the vanguard of environmental and sustainability education since its inception in 1969,” said Sheridan. “This innovative program is reestablishing York’s leadership in environmental education.”

Current students who are interested in the joint graduate diploma program can apply immediately. A copy of the diploma fact sheet is available on the FES Web site. Further details on the graduate programs in Environmental Studies and admissions requirements for the MES and PhD are also available online. Candidates interested in the diploma by itself, should contact Don Dippo, diploma coordinator in the Faculty of Education, at ddippo@yorku.ca, or at ext. 88791. Information on the Graduate Program in Education and admissions requirements for the MEd and PhD are available on the Faculty of Education Web site.

This article was submitted by Christine Beevis,  liaison & recruitment officer, Graduate Program, Faculty of Environmental Studies.