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Environmental and Sustainability Education

Student Projects

'Take the Stairs' Campaign 

Each fall we run a campaign around 'taking the stairs' stair at OISE to reduce the use of the OISE elevators for three key reasons, Health & Wellness, Accessibility & Equity, and Energy Conservation. Leaving the elevators for those who need to use them will help all to get to where we need to go on time, and also provides a great opportunity for daily physical activity while helping to reduce the energy consumption of the elevators at OISE. In September and October you'll find pop-up performances by musicians and poets in the main stairwell to encourage your stair use. In addition, students, faculty and staff are invited to enter the Amazing Stairs Race competition for the prestigious GOLDEN SNEAKER award. 

OISE'S Amazing Stairs Race

OISE's own version of the Amazing Race helps the OISE community learn more about the benefits of taking the stairs - it promotes energy conservation through reduced elevator use, and it has a positive 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.  Click here for more information on their project.

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. Click here to learn more about their project here.  

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.

Teaching Sustainability for Secondary Geography

During her final practicum, MMT student Monica Brewer developed and delivered a unit on sustainability in a grade 9 applied geography course. The emphasis was on the impact of the choices we make on the environment, which can be positive as well as negative. The students particularly enjoyed the experiential components of this unit, which is described in this video.

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.

Integrating Sustainability into Teaching English

Master of Teaching Student Ellen Jamieson developed the Heartwoods and Soulwords website which showcases a unit that was designed and piloted with a virtual grade 12 English class. The Poe[TREE] Unit is focused on four main components: Environmentalist Poetry, Climate Change [Art]/[Act]ivism, Nature Journaling, and A Diversity of Texts. This project integrates nature mapping, art and literature, gratitude, and reciprocity in an effort to build community and connection while supporting student well-being. 

Master of Teaching student Kellie Grammar designed and implemented a novel study for grade 9 English infused with Environmental & Sustainability Education (ESE). Her goal was to incorporate ESE principals into her unit on Fahrenheit 451 to develop the students' use of figurative language and their sense of natural curiosity. Kellie was aiming to unlock their creative potential by grounding their learning in nature. Watch her video to learn more.  

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 by clicking here. 

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 here.  

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 here.

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 (for Jeremy).  To read Shannon Duncan's paper, click here (for Shannon).  To read Lisa Mazzulla's paper, click here (For Lisa).

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.