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Outdoor Ed

From '60s Flowers to '90s Power

Elizabeth Morton

Volume 20 Number 5
1992 October

CM goes outdoors to look at the roots and future of environmental/outdoor education and comes back inside to look at recommended teacher and student resources.

Like three-fruit marmelade, CM's third annual environment feature brings together the expertise and experience of three individuals on a bittersweet topic-- environmental education. (Bittersweet because it's a good news (look what we're achieving)/bad news (but see how awful it is out there) kind of work.)

Ann Kilby, an outdoor educator with the Western Quebec School Board in Aylmer, Quebec, looks back at the origins of environmental/ outdoor education in North America and at future trends. The resource list is a compilation of material provided by Bob Moore, Environment Resource/ Outdoor Education Teacher with the Carleton Board of Education, near Ottawa, and Barrie Martin, Visitor Services Specialist with the Leslie M. Frost Natural Resources Centre in Dorset, Ontario. I hope this combined retrospective and recommended reading list brings renewed energy to your environmental education programs.


The beginning of a new school year is a time for reflection as well for looking ahead. I've spent sixteen years in the field of outdoor education, and the beginning of the school year is a good time to take stock of the rapid changes that surround us. Changes? How did a high school mathematics teacher become an environmental educator?


During the years of flower children, many classroom teachers had sympathies with the back-to-the-land movement, and those sympathies developed into concerns for teaching about the natural environment. Isolated programs and teaching units grew and were shared among teachers who wanted to move away from the consumer society and use of elderly science textbooks. Personality-based programs multiplied and flourished.

Who were outdoor educators and what did they do? School boards and conservation authorities started to open centres to assist teachers with natural science programs for students from Kindergarten to grade 13. Committed and interested teachers and interpreters became outdoor educators providing activity-based programs focused on the natural environment. They took the students out of their school and urban environment to the "nature centre."

Organizations and associations of science teachers and outdoor educators were formed. These bodies gave opportunities for leadership and forums for sharing knowledge, ideas, skills and concerns. Curricula were developed; school boards were pressured to think about environmental ethics. In-service training, workshops and conferences followed. Besides forestry and agriculture, ecology became an option on high school course lists. Students looked at forests, fields, marshes and ponds; not just at words and pictures in textbooks. They went out with rubber boots, magnifiers, jars and notepads.


What impact have those early "outdoor" teachers had on today's classrooms? Those individuals and organized groups succeeded in making environmental education part of school curricula. This development has, in recent years, combined very effectively with the weight of information on the state of the environment available on T.V., in the newspapers, and on the radio. One only has to ask principals and teachers what is going on in their schools and classrooms to realize that many initiatives originate from the school's environment program. Environmental education has come indoors to the classroom, schoolyard and home.

Some schools set themselves an environmental objective for the year. Each class will take on a project. These programs can culminate in a gymnasium display, or the more ambitious can spend a day or a week at a shopping centre telling of their explorations. From these beginnings, municipal recycling programs have been successfully started.

Personal commitment has been another strategy--each student makes a pledge to improve on one bad environmental habit. Individual programs are mushrooming--lunch leftovers used for composting, classroom boxes of red wigglers, adopt a reptile, buy a piece of rainforest or wetland, home and school lunch bags, Earth Day--the list goes on. It just needs two or three committed teachers and a principal within a school to inspire the rest of the staff and students to become eager learners and participants. It is refreshing to hear that the day or two spent at the outdoor centre is not enough.

Older teachers admit that they are finding their own children monitoring their environmental habits. Younger teachers, who took part in some of the early Environmental Education programs when they were students, now are anxious to improve on those early initiatives. They teach about cycles, ecosystems and ways "to think globally and act locally." They are keen to take positive steps to conserve and improve our world.

Is this too rosy a picture? Does every school do this much? Of course there are many classes that still have to get past the one day a year at the outdoor centre. But as in the anti-smoking campaign, let's hope it is no longer socially acceptable to waste and despoil the landscape. I hope that what Jane and Dick have learned in the classroom will be carried into the home.


In the same way that whole language teaching involves the whole curriculum, a holistic approach needs to be taken with science and the environment. Observation, classification and problemsolving skills become more important as we move toward an integrated approach to understanding our urban, agricultural and wild environments. These must be the priorities for tomorrow's educators.


Professional Reading

Bergman, Charles. Wild Echoes: Encounters with the Most Endangered Animals in North America. McGraw-Hill,1989; Alaska Northwest Books, 1990. 322 p.

Crucible. Science Teachers' Association of Ontario, Box 2699, Station B. Richmond Hill, Ont. L4E 1A7. six issues per year; $45.00.

Energy Alert/Alerte ÉnergÉtique. Energy Educators of Ontario, 517 College St., Suite 406, Toronto, Ont. M6G 4A2. four issues per year; $15.00 annual membership includes subscription to Energy Alert.

Environmental Communicator. North American Association for Environmental Education, P.O. Box 400, Troy, Ohio 45373. six issues per year; both full membership at $35.00 (U.S.) and associate membership at $20.00 (U.S.) includes a subscription to Environmental Communicator.

Green Teacher. 95 Robert St., Toronto, Ont. M5S 2K5. five issues per year; $5.00 each.

Interactions: The Ontario Journal of Environmental Education. Ontario Society for Environmental Education, 54 Blackfoot Place, Woodstock, Ont. N4T 1E6. five issues per year; $22.00 for libraries; $35.00 annual membership includes subscription to Interactions.

The Journal of Environmental Education. Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation, 4000 Albemarle St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016. four issues per year; $47.00 (U.S.) + $8.00 postage.

The Monograph. Ontario Association for Geographic and Environmental Education, P.O. Box 8085, Sherwood Forest Postal Station, London, Ont. N6G 2B0. four issues per year; $45.00 for institutions, $38.00 for individuals, $15.00 for students.

Pathways: The Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education. Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario, 47 Rama Court, Hamilton, Ont. L8W 2B3. six issues per year; $38.00.

Warmer Bulletin: The Newspaper about Warmth and Energy from Rubbish. World Action for Recycling Materials and Energy from Rubbish (Warmer Campaign), 83 Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, Kent (U.K.) TN4 8BS. four issues per year; free.

Materials Recommended for Young People

Burnett, James A., C.T. Dauphine Jr., S.H. McCrindle and T. Mosquin. On the Brink: Endangered Species in Canada. Western Producer Prairie Books (sponsored by Environment Canada), 1989. 192p.

This state of the environment report could prove to be very useful to students wishing to learn more about endangered species in Canada. It examines some of the reasons why we should be concerned that human activity is making life impossible for many of our fellow creatures. Grades 10 and up

Dunlop, Stewart and Michael Jackson. Understanding Our Environment. Oxford University Press, 1991. 234 p.

An excellent student resource book dealing with a host of topics ranging from world ecosystems to waste management practices. Grades 7 and up

Middleton, Nick. The Atlas of Environmental Issues. Illustrated by Steve Weston and John Downes. Oxford University Press, 1988; Facts on File, 1989. 63 p.

An excellent resource text for Junior and Intermediate students. The book gives capsulized summaries of some of the major environmental issues of the world today. Grades 4 to 9

The State of Canada's Environment. Environment Canada, 1991. Issued also in French under title: L'État de I'environnement au Canada. 1 vol. (various pagings)

This is the second report on the state of Canada's environment. It is full of graphs and tables that attempt to address four main questions. What is happening in Canada's environment? Why is it happening? Why is it significant? What are Canadians doing about it? Grades 10 and up

Ann Kilby is the Outdoor Education and Science consultant for the Western Quebec School Board in Aylmer, Quebec, with responsibility for an outdoor centre in Wakefield. She serves an area five times the size of Belgium north of the Ottawa River, stretching to Val d'Or on the north and almost to Montréal on the east.

Bob Moore is Environment Resource/ Outdoor Education Teacher with the Carleton Board of Education in Nepean, Ontario. He divides his time between the Bill Mason Outdoor Education Centre and West Carleton Secondary School in Dunrobin, Ontario.

Barrie Martin is Visitor Services Specialist at the Leslie M. Frost Natural Resources Centre in Dorset, Ontario.

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