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Environmental and Sustainability Education
 

Faculty Projects

SSHRC Research: Promoting Teaching for Scientific Literacy through University-School District Collaboration (2007-2012)

This research aims to explore science, technology, society and environment (STSE) education with a focus on environmental education, stewardship and outdoor education. Led by Erminia Pedretti, the project team members include PhD candidates Michael Tan, Katherine Bellomo and Gabriel Ayyavoo. It includes two related projects:

Ontario Teachers’ Views and Practices about Environmental and Outdoor Education
In Ontario an extensive review of the science and technology curriculum at the elementary and secondary levels (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2007, 2008a, 2008b), has resulted in a shift toward a vision of science education that has emphasis on the environment, and a science, technology, society and environment (STSE) approach. Two new environmental science courses have been added to secondary education in Ontario. Furthermore, a report (Bondar et al., 2007) recommended that environmental education be a part of all curricula. It is within this context of curriculum reform and a renewed commitment to environmental education that this study emerged. This project involved developing an on-line survey to determine Ontario teachers’ views and practices about environmental and outdoor education. We collected 377 responses from educators across the province, and interviewed 30 teachers to augment our data. To date we have presented our findings at national and international conferences (NARST, and AERA) and have published one article (Tan & Pedretti, 2010). Currently, we are writing an article for Pathways entitled: A baseline study of Ontario teachers’ views of environmental and outdoor education. For more on this project, refer to Tan, M., & Pedretti, E. (2010). Negotiating the complexities of environmental education: A study of Ontario teachers. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education. 10(1), 61-78.

OISE-TDSB Collaborative Project: Promoting Science, Environmental and Outdoor Education Through A Professional Learning Community
Phase 2 of the project included working collaboratively with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to run an action research group with elementary science teachers and outdoor educators. Participants included 5 outdoor education site managers and staff, and 19 elementary teachers. We met with the participants once a month (for full days) for four months – conducting workshops and activities, while supporting teachers as they engaged in inquiry and curriculum design and implementation. Our monthly meetings helped create community and provided amazing opportunities to explore the intersections of theory and practice across EE, OE and science education; read and exchange ideas; share resources; and develop and implement curriculum. We gathered extensive data (video tapes, group audio tapes, journals, pre and post interviews, artifacts, etc.) and presented preliminary findings at national and international conferences (AERA, NARST and CSSE). Participating teachers also co-presented with the research team at the Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario professional conference. Data analyses, writing of manuscripts and dissemination activities are on-going.

STEPWISE Framework Research

Larry Bencze directs a SSHRC-funded research and development project that is based on his 'STEPWISE' theoretical framework. STEPWISE organizes all learning domains ('Expectations' in Ontario) to indicate that they are co-dependent, but places sociopolitical activism to address 'STSE' issues – such as the extent to which governments should regulate pesticide uses - in the centre of the framework. A major premise about the issues is that they often involve conflicts between extreme capitalists and their opponents. Actions that students might take include: educating others, lobbying power brokers, developing better inventions, disrupting likely causes of social and environmental problems and improving personal life decisions. With assistance from graduate students, Larry conducts research into the nature and extent of implementation of STEPWISE in various contexts, including in his pre-service teaching, with teachers and students in schools and with youth connected to community groups (e.g., food banks). Data collected is largely qualitative, drawn from people’s efforts to implement the framework in their particular contexts. A major analytical framework used is actor network theory, which posits that animate and inanimate ‘actants’ are in dynamic relationships with each other – with certain actants being particularly influential. For information about STEPWISE, contact Larry Bencze at [larry.bencze@utoronto.ca]

Research into Social Business and Good Food Markets

Jennifer Sumner is part of the SSHRC-funded research project entitled Social Business and Marginalized Social Groups, led by Dr. Jack Quarter of the Adult Education and Community Development Program at OISE/UT. This CURA is a joint project among the Social Economy Centre of the University of Toronto, the Ontario Co-operative Association, the Centre for Social Innovation, and the Toronto Enterprise Fund. The project is comprised of leading scholars and practitioners from 13 universities and 21 community partner organizations, primarily from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) where the research in focused. The focus is on the Greater Toronto Area because it is a major population centre with a high proportion of first generation immigrants and visible minorities, and growing levels of poverty, as documented by a series of reports by United Way Toronto (2002, 2004, 2005). In conjunction with Dr. JJ McMurtry of the Business and Society Program at York University and a number of graduate students, Jennifer is partnering with FoodShare Toronto to research the Good Food Markets, a recent FoodShare initiative to bring healthy, fresh, affordable produce to low-income neighbourhoods in the city and to help build vibrant communities.

Research into Creative Approaches to Environmental Education

Hilary Inwood’s research as an educator and artist focuses on developing environmental literacy through art education in school and community settings. Referred to as environmental art or eco-art education, it integrates art education with environmental education as a means of developing awareness of and engagement with concepts such as interdependence, biodiversity, conservation, restoration, and sustainability. Uniting these disciplines increases the likelihood that educators can help to shift learners’ attitudes as well as alter their behaviour in positive ways towards more sustainable ways of living. Her current inquiry is examining the effects of teachers' professional development in cross-curricular approaches to environmental education. Her work extends beyond classrooms to include school gardens, outdoor education centres, parks and galleries; her writings, research and artworks can be accessed at http://www.hilaryinwood.ca.

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