New U of S centre to be a hub for research on environmental sustainability education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE- January 25, 2013 2013-01-12-OTHER Saskatoon - A new institute at the University of Saskatchewan will bring together researchers, community and government partners from across Canada and around the world to tackle environmental sustainability issues such as greenwashing, climate change denial and our love affair with the automobile.

"This is the first research institute in Canada to focus on sustainability education," said Marcia McKenzie, director of the Sustainability Education Research Institute (SERI) at the U of S College of Education. "Our focus is on doing research that has real impact on policy and practice towards creating a more sustainable future. That involves developing integrated solutions with people at all levels—from grassroots to policy-makers."
For example, SERI researchers are making contributions to community initiatives such as the Saskatoon CarShare Co-operative and a digital media project on sustainability issues important to youth. Others are working on the issue of "greenwashing," that is, labeling oneself "green" and then carrying on business as usual, and the issue of climate change denial.
"Environmental sustainability is a theme that runs through several of our signature areas of research, from working with our Aboriginal communities and protecting our freshwater, to how we develop natural resources and feed ourselves," said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research. "SERI will provide a focus for sustainability research, fostering creation of knowledge to inform everything from classroom lessons, actions with community partners and government policy."
A main focus for SERI is to improve how environmental sustainability is embraced in K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions, from classroom teaching and community outreach to how they run their operations. For example, SERI researchers will work in partnership with the City of Saskatoon, the Saskatoon Public School Division and the Saskatoon Catholic School Division on education for sustainable development initiatives.
So far, SERI includes six researchers from the College of Education with a range of expertise including First Nations and cross-cultural education, environment and education, and science education in schools. Researchers from other units across the university bring expertise in urban planning, Indigenous studies, geographic information systems, and community-based ecosystem management.
SERI has collaborative relationships with nearly 20 local, national, and international organizations and about 10 academic institutions.
The institute builds on previous successes, including the Sustainability and Education Policy Network (SEPN), a six-year initiative launched in 2012 with $3.3 million in funding, largely from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The network engages communities, practitioners, and policy-makers in developing educational policy and practice that better addresses environmental issues.
SERI also houses the Digital Media Project. Backed by $112,000 from SSHRC, it offers opportunities for youth to explore their relationship to their community and sustainability issues through map-making, photography and videography. Both projects are led by McKenzie.
SERI's creation highlights the growing importance of research on sustainability education. Given increasing public concern about environmental degradation and its impacts on regional and national economies and ecosystems, SERI will act as a centre for engaging Canadians in further integrating sustainability in education.
More information on SERI is available at
For more information, contact:
Marcia McKenzie, Director, SERI (306) 966-7551
Michael Robin, Research Communications Specialist (306) 966-1425

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