Status of Environmental Education in Ontario Schools – 2009 Update

A Policy Framework for Environmental Education in Ontario Schools: Acting Today, Shaping Tomorrow

In February, 2009, the Ministry of Education released its policy framework Acting Today, Shaping Tomorrow, resulting from its commitment to implement the 32 recommendations of Shaping Our Schools, Shaping Our Future.

Read the full document at www.edu.gov.on.ca/curriculumcouncil/ShapeTomorrow.pdf.

It acknowledged the power of environmental education to foster student engagement and the positive effect on student achievement and motivation. The policy framework provides the vision and a model for school boards in the revision or development of a board’s environmental education policy. It is also recognized that the implementation of the policy framework for environmental education will occur over time and that it will be guided by local needs and conditions.

Unveiled in February, the Ministry of Education’s new policy framework for environmental education is radical, ambitious, and transformative. It calls for environmental education all day, every day, everywhere. According to the policy document, the Ministry will “embed environmental education expectations and opportunities in all grades and in all subjects of the Ontario curriculum.” No other Canadian jurisdiction has moved so far down the environmental education path, and Ministry officials are unaware of any similar initiative in the United States. The policy document sets out goals, strategies, and actions to be carried out by the Ministry of Education, school boards, and schools. The goals relate to Teaching and Learning, Student Engagement and Community Connections, and Environmental Leadership. It also provides Status Indicators, Facilitative Indicators, and Effect Indicators for Measuring Progress.

In announcing the seismic shift that places environmental education on a par with the curriculum’s commitment to numeracy and literacy, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne set out the new policy’s formidable objective. “Our goal is to have all students become environmentally responsible citizens by the time they graduate high school,” Wynne told some 500 educators attending a two-day environmental education symposium on February 25 and 26.

But the new emphasis involves much more than educating young people about the state and causes of our fragile environment. “The policy framework seeks to move beyond a focus on symptoms – air and water pollution, for example – to encompass the underlying causes of environmental stresses, which are rooted in personal and social values and in organizational structures,” says Acting Today, Shaping Tomorrow.

Scope and Sequence of EE Expectations in the Ontario Curriculum

This document, available at http://edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/environment.html and at http://edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/secondary/environment.html, identifies both expectations connected explicitly with EE and those providing opportunities to make connections to environmental topics and issues.

Standards for EE in the Ontario Curriculum

This document, found at http://edu.gov.on.ca/eng/teachers/enviroed/standards.html, describes the nature and scope of environmental education as reflected throughout the revised curriculum. The standards are described within the themes of community, knowledge, perspectives, and action.

Article Environmental Education in Ontario in Professionally Speaking, June 2009

This article by Michael Benedict describes the changes in policy, approach and inclusion of environmental education in Ontario resulting from the Bondar Report in 2007.
http://professionallyspeaking.oct.ca/june_2009/enviro_ed.asp

Links to Related Documents in Other Jurisdictions

Education for Sustainability, Ministry of Education, Wellington, NZ
http://www.tki.org.nz/r/environ_ed/sustainable_future/futures_e.php

Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative
http://www.environment.gov.au/education/aussi