Defining Environmental & Sustainability Education

SCAN uses the term Environmental & Sustainability Education (ESE) as a shorthand to reference the multiple traditions of environmental learning that occur at all levels of education. These include environmental education, education for sustainable development, Indigenous education, Land-based learning, nature-based learning, outdoor & experiential education, place-based education, eco-justice education, climate chage education, éducation relative à l'environnement et au développement durable, education for sustainability, humane education, and sustainability for wellbeing. We recognize that each of these traditions bring different theories, facets and issues to the fore, and that there are tensions between them. Using the term ESE signals a desire to honour the contributions and tensions of these multiple theoretical and practical positions and voices.

Environmental Education

Environmental Education is learning that “encourages a sense of personal responsibility for the environment; fosters a commitment to sustainable living, and promotes an enduring dedication to environmental stewardship.” 

    - Green Street

"Environmental education is education about the environment, for the environment, and in the environment that promotes an understanding of, rich and active experience in, and an appreciation for the dynamic interactions of:
•  the Earth’s physical and biological systems;
•  the dependency of our social and economic systems on these natural systems;
•  the scientific and human dimensions of environmental issues;
•  the positive and negative consequences, both intended and unintended of the interactions between human created and natural systems."

    - Ministry of Education
      "Shaping Our Schools, Shaping Our Future", 2007, p. 6

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

"The role of education for sustainable development (ESD) is to help people develop the attitudes, skills, and knowledge to make informed decisions for the benefit of themselves and others, now and for the future, and to act upon those decisions. ESD is an approach to teaching and learning based on the ideals and principles that underlie sustainability – human rights, poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods, peace, environmental protection, democracy, health, biological and landscape diversity, climate change, gender equality, and protection of indigenous cultures. In these and many other dimensions, education for sustainable development is analogous with the vision and goals of UNESCO."

    - Canadian Commission for UNESCO

“Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) encourages us to explore the profound interdependencies of ecological, societal, and economic systems. ESD is about respecting and preserving our histories, valuing culture and community, caring for others and the environment, and taking action to create a fair, healthy, and safe world for all beings. ESD also supports flexibility, creativity, critical reflection, and fosters a sense of personal responsibility for the economy, society, and environment.”

    - Learning for a Sustainable Future

Ecojustice Education

EcoJustice Education is the "educational efforts of students, teachers, and members of the local community learning collaboratively while engaged in revitalizing the local commons. EcoJustice Education is shaped by an understanding that local and global ecosystems are essential to all life; challenging the deep cultural assumptions underlying modern thinking that undermine those systems; and the recognition of the need to restore the cultural and environmental commons."

EcoJustice Education: Toward Diverse, Democratic, and Sustainable Communities, Second Edition by Rebecca A. Martusewicz, Jeff Edmundson, and John Lupinacci.

Sustainability Education

“The goal of sustainability education is to develop…new knowledge and new ways of thinking needed to achieve economic prosperity, participate democratically, secure justice and equity, and all the while regenerate the health of the ecosystems, the gift upon which all life and all production depend.”

    - Madison, Frances. (2009). Spotlight On: The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education

Placed-based Education

“Place-based education (PBE) immerses students in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences, using these as a foundation for the study of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum. PBE emphasizes learning through participation in service projects for the local school and/or community.”

    - Promise of Place

“Place-based education takes us back to basics, but in a broader and more inclusive fashion. Desirable environmental education, or what we’re calling place-based education, teaches about both the natural and built environments. The history, folk culture, social problems, economics, and aesthetics of the community and its environment are all on the agenda… one of the core objectives is to look at how landscape, community infrastructure, watersheds, and cultural traditions all interact and shape each other.”

Sobel, David. (2004). Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities. Massachusetts: The Orion Society.