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David Zandvliet

Teaching teachers about the environment

December 4, 2007

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By Stuart Colcleugh

David Zandvliet co-wrote the book on teaching B.C. kids about the environment and now he’s advising the province’s teachers on how to use it.

Zandvliet, an associate professor of science and environmental education in SFU’s education faculty, was the lead author of Environmental Learning and Experience: An Interdisciplinary Guide for Teachers.

Compiled over 16 months in consultation with educators in several school districts, the guide was designed to assist teachers of all subjects and grades to integrate environmental concepts into teaching and learning.

“We conceived it as a support framework to guide teachers in their education planning,” says Zandvliet, “complemented by web resources to support environmental learning in subjects as diverse as science, social studies and language arts.”

The guide urges teachers to “encourage your students to make decisions based on an understanding of the issues, as well as their personal values, and the sometimes conflicting values of other community members.”

It’s organizing principles – summarized in the acronym CARE, include:

•    Complexity (a consideration of complex systems).
•    Aesthetics (or aesthetic appreciation).
•    Responsibility (responsible action and consequences of action).
•    Ethics (the practice of an environmental ethic).

“CARE demonstrates the interdisciplinary nature of environmental concepts, while showing a progression of the development of ideas that can lead towards deeper engagement with environmental learning in all of its forms,” says Zandvliet.

Zandvliet and his research partners are now helping a team of k-12 teachers map the environmental content of existing courses in the education ministry's mandated curriculum.

The ministry has also contracted him to lead three professional workshops to help teachers plan direct environmental experiences and enrich students' evaluation of those experiences.

 "There's a whole body of literature," says Zandvliet, "on how direct experience affects observation, reflection and decision-making about environmental issues."

The first workshop was held at the Vancouver Outdoor School in Brackendale and a second is planned for Vancouver Island in January, while a third one is planned for the Interior in March.

SFU's Learning & Instructional Development Centre is helping Zandvliet put together a DVD of the workshops.
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