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Environmental and Sustainability Education

Student Projects


OISE'S Amazing Stairs Race

Students in the Environmental Leadership Circle have organized their own version of the Amazing race to help the OISE community learn more about the benefits of taking the stairs - energy conservation through reduced elevator use, and an impact on personal health and well-being.  More information about this is found here.

FLAP - Fatal Light Awareness Program

A team of OISE B.Ed students headed up by Raysha Carmichael, Michelle Attard and Sindy Lui led the FLAP eco-art project to help raise awareness of the challenges of bird deaths around high buildings in the city.  Over 300 handmade bird prints were created and distributed to all of the exterior OISE offices, reminding faculty and staff to do their part.  The prints act as an artistic reminder for people to close their office blinds each night, as well as turn off overhead office lights and use task-focused lighting at night.  For more information on their project, visit:  oiseflap.weebly.com/

Cycling for Energy

OISE B.Ed students Andrew Rogers and Jason Sanders-Bennett built an energy-creating bicycle for one of their course projects, creating sufficient electrical energy to power a MP3 player, as well as a tester of different kinds of light bulbs.  Learn more about their project at:  bikingforenergy.wordpress.com/our-project-explained/

Students for Environment Blog

StudentsforEnvironment is an online forum created for the purpose of encouraging collaborative learning across the Toronto District School Board on topics that are central to Environmental and Sustainability Education. This forum was started in March 2011 by three environmentally aware teacher candidates from OISE as part of a course project. Our environmental teaching and learning focused on water conservation and protecting our local watershed, which is the area of land that catches rain and snow and drains into a marsh, stream, river, lake or groundwater. The three schools involved, Grey Owl Junior Public School, Duke of Connaught Junior and Senior Public School, and Bala Avenue Community School are situated in The Rouge, The Don, and The Humber watersheds, respectively. We hope to see this project expand to include a number of different schools across the city interacting and conversing about the environment. For more info, visit the forum at: www.studentsforenvironment.blogspot.com

Teaching Sustainability for Secondary Geography

OISE B.Ed student Liza Mazzulla developed and implemented units on sustainability for her three geography classes, in which students reflected on their own relationship to nature and then looked further into the role Canada plays on the national and global environmental stages. Students engaged in debates over waste disposal plans, tracked the environmental impact of consumer goods, and researched what makes a resource “sustainable.” The units focused on heightening the critical awareness of the students in regards to their own consumption and how they themselves can work for positive environmental change. For more info, you can read an outline of the units here.

Power of Knowledge – Bird Conservation Education in Action

This blog run by Nicole Vella-Geldart delves into the wild and wonderful world of birds, aiming to educate about avian diversity in Ontario while looking at issues on a global scale which affect the birds, and ourselves, here in Ontario. The project also seeks to foster an emotional and empathic connection between the student and nature, so that moving forward these learners will feel motivated and empowered to protect avian species and all biodiversity. The blog includes descriptions of classroom activities related to avian conservation, links and descriptions of other programs that work to help preserve avian species, resources for both educators and students, and a large collection of beautiful images. Learn more about this project at: http://avianstewardship.blogspot.ca/

My Perfect Community Project

Sean Magee, the curator of this blog, asks the question, “What would your perfect community look, feel, smell, sound, [and] taste like?” The goal of the blog is to provide a guide for teachers to engage students in activities about all of our abilities to shape and create the communities that we live in, as well as interrogating the notion of what a “perfect community” looks like. The project seeks to get students outside of the classroom to take part in some experiential learning in the natural world, with the aim of connecting one’s vision of a perfect community to what can be found in the environment. Learn more about this project at: http://myperfectcommunity.blogspot.ca/

Audiosynthesis: Teaching Nature through Music

Teacher/musician Jeff Sereda has developed a unit for an instrumental music class that examines what elements of music exist beyond basic notation, framing this through the lens of environmental education. The unit contains a variety of lessons that instructs about rhythm, emotion, tone, and a number of other elements of music by taking students outside to hear the natural music that exists in our outdoor environment and reflect that in their own compositions. Jeff has also put together a compilation of songs relating to the environment and sustainability that can be used in tandem with this unit. Learn more about this unit at: http://www.jeffsereda.com/

Outdoor Learning for Primary Grades

This unit plan aims to take the curiosity that all young children have about their environment and direct it towards developing their own skills and self-concept through environmental engagement. Created for use at the kindergarten level, the unit seeks to facilitate the inquiry process with the students, help teachers set up their classrooms to fuel this inquiry, and get these children learning about environmental sustainability from a young age. Activities range from using trees to teach mathematics, doing yoga with an environmental focus, creating a vegetable garden, and many more engaging activities. For more information, you can download this unit here.

The Little Green Book of Sustainable Ideas

Created by Cyrus Mirshahi and Regine Lam, this resource – designed for grades 4-6 – compiles a wide range of projects and activities that teachers can bring into their classrooms to encourage environmental and sustainability education among students. The resource and its activities span across the Ontario curriculum, with connections ranging from science, to math, to visual arts, and beyond. An in-depth breakdown of these projects is provided, and all of them can be customized to suit any type of classroom. For more information, you can view this document here.

The World Water Game

Developed by Sonia Wing, this game examines the growing fresh water crisis that exists in our world and what forces are at play as access to fresh water rapidly declines. Applicable in geography, politics, civics, and many more subjects, students are divided into 4 groups, each representing a different country, and the object of the game is to have the most water or “points” at the end of it. This game will reveal to students the power dynamics that exist behind the commodification of fresh water in a fun and engaging manner, while also raising awareness of the seriousness of the global water crisis and encouraging students to take positive actions in their own lives in regards to this. To learn more, you can view this resource here.

Environmental Self-Portraits

As part of their course works, students in EDU 5508 had to write environemntal self-portraits exploring environmental issues they feel a personal connection to.  Part history, part reflection, these self-portraits are fascinating glimpses into the intersection of environmental learning, research and activism. To read Jeremy Douglas' self-portrait, click here.  To read Shannon Duncan's paper, click here.  To read Lisa Mazzulla's paper, click here.

Environmental Philosophy

This mini-unit designed by Stephanie Cochrane seeks to educate students on the connection between philosophy and the environment. It covers ethics, metaphysics, philosophy or science, and social/political philosophy in order to show the interconnection that everything on Earth has with the environment. The mini-unit delves into the ways people put value into the environment and the variety of perspectives on nature environment, encouraging students to undergo an active engagement with environmental issues. A wide variety of teaching resources and various lesson plans are included as well. To learn more, you can view this resource here.

Graduate Student Research

Erin Sperling's doctoral research in the CTL Department is a community-based, participatory action research inquiry with youth around issues of social justice and food security.  It is connected more broadly to conceptions of formal and non-formal educational spaces, pedagogies of empowerment, and youth activism around issues of science, technology, society and the environment. For more information about Erin's work, she can be contacted at: [erin.sperling@utoronto.ca].

Rachel York-Bridge's doctoral research aims to explore the role of arts and creativity in environmental education, and find out how media arts and eco-literacy are connecting students to their natural environments. Her inquiry aims to record the new ways in which teachers, schools, and students are engaged in using media for environmental education and then generate a discourse around the possibilities for transformative learning and promote environmental learning among students.  For more information about Rachel's work, she can be contacted at: [rachel.york.bridges@utoronto.ca]

Joanne Nazir is a Doctoral Candidate in CTL at OISE. Her dissertation, Mapping the Intersection Between Outdoor and Environmental Education, explores the nature of environmental education at one well established outdoor education centre in Toronto. The study is prompted by her personal passion for environmental education and the recent surge of interest in environmental education worldwide. As one of several avenues through which educators provide environmental education, outdoor education is one avenue that is severely under-researched. However a growing body of literature, and my own experiences with teaching/learning have led me to believe that outdoor education, as provided by outdoor education centres, provides a unique and powerful methodology with great potential for environmental learning. The study focuses on the phenomenon of outdoor environmental education from the experiences/perspectives of outdoor educators who work at the centre and focuses on the perspective of practitioners’ questions about the deeper nature of outdoor environmental education, especially questions of philosophy and practice. It will tap into practitioner knowledge about environmental education, and provide insights into how practice in the area can be improved. Joanne can be contacted at [joanne.nazir@utoronto.ca]

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