Environmental Education Ontario (EEON) came into being in 2000, catalyzed by the removal of the Environmental Science course from the Ontario curriculum and the loss of funding and infrastructure for Outdoor Education.
Given the traditionally voluntary nature of much environmental and ecological education, EEON set as its task the facilitation, development and implementation of a Strategic Plan for Environmental and Sustainability Education (E&SE) for Ontario. Environmental and Sustainability Education requires a shift in traditional learning to include a systematic examination of what is ecologically sustainable. It then explores a range of options to achieve positive change that considers social, environmental and economic needs.
EEON members recognized the power of broad-based collaborative planning in setting out a vision for improving the quality, scope and status of environmental learning across public sectors.
EEON developed as a coalition of environmental and ecological educators, concerned citizens, parents, and representatives from non-governmental organizations and government agencies. It evolved into a charitable corporation and received grants from The Ontario Trillium Foundation, Environmental Canada and the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation to develop and publish its Strategic Plan.
In 2002 and 2003, at weekend workshops or through the completion of online workbooks, over 500 Ontarians from across the province and across all public sectors, contributed their ideas to create an ecologically literate province. The result, Greening the Way Ontario Learns, is truly a first for Canada. EEON’s “public strategic plan” – so called because of its unique planning process by and for Ontarians – offers outcomes, needs and strategies for improved environmental and ecological literacy across 17 core societal sectors which, in the plan, are called Audiences.
In December of 2003, EEON proudly launched and presented Greening the Way Ontario Learns to the Government of Ontario and to the public at a press conference at the Queen’s Park Media Gallery.
Since then, EEON members have worked tirelessly to disseminate the plan. They have met with and made presentations to decision-makers, government officials, educators, students, universities, community groups and individual Ontarians to share a vision of education as a path to a sustainable future.
In 2005 EEON collaborated with environmental education groups, school boards and concerned citizens to support an application to add the Ministry of Education to the thirteen other ministries under the purview of the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights. Such a move could bring more transparency and accountability in environmental policymaking as it relates to education curricula. So far, the government has not required the Ministry of Education to post environmentally significant polices for public review.
In 2007, EEON supported and provided input to the Working Group on Environmental Education (Bondar Committee). Their Report Shaping Schools, Shaping Our Future and the Ministry of Education Policy Document Acting Today, Shaping Tomorrow that resulted from the government’s acceptance of that Report in 2009 have made ESE an integral element across the entire curriculum and have returned Environmental Science as a course in the secondary curriculum.
Recently, EEON has undergone a re-visioning process, which has confirmed our future strategic plan. We are currently mobilizing on a new project which aims to gauge the environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours of Ontarians relative to our first strategic plan. How far have we come since the publication of Greening the Way Ontario Learns in 2003? We aim to find out…