Conference focused on sustainability education

The University of Saskatchewan hosted the first of what is expected to be an annual conference on sustainability education.

By Colleen MacPherson

Delegates who attended the conference on Oct. 4 included policy-makers, administrators, teachers, students, faculty, and post secondary and early education experts.

The conference allowed them to discuss the best known practices in sustainability and environmental education, said Nicola Chopin of the university's 10-month old Sustainability Education Research Institute (SERI).

"Its creating a space where we can all talk about what's happening and celebrate it and tell people about it so they're aware and they can incorporate it into their own teaching practice," Chopin said.

SERI is the only institute in Canada that focuses on sustainability education research, she noted.

"I think we're really excited that it's covering a range of topics, including some that are a bit more activist, but all the way up to research-based and best practices."

Delegate Scott Thompson was one of the speakers for a session entitled Eco Education in Urban Environments. He teaches placebased education at the university and is a consultant with Saskatoon Public Schools.

"Educating youth is hugely important to inspire them, to engage them, and to make sure they're thinking critically about all of the issues environmentally and as far as social justice is concerned as well," he said.

Eco-education is about more than biology, he said. Urban environments in particular have a mix of different kinds of issues.

But students really don't know their own neighbourhoods - and until they do, they won't make a connection and become engaged citizens, he said.

That engagement can be through specialized programs outside schools, but also in the classroom.

"The teacher can be moving them out into the local neighbourhoods and parks and having them start to learn the past and the history of that area, as well as what's going on presently - and what are the decisions they'd like to make for the future, as young people?"

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