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David Zandvliet

David Zandvliet teaches students outside of the classroom providing unique learning opportunities.

Teaching with environmental impact

April 2, 2009

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What do you get when you take a group of students out of the classroom for six weeks and teach them outside in a natural setting? The Faculty of Education’s environmental education course.

For the past 10 years, David Zandvliet has been teaching the course in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Before SFU, he taught science and environmental education in First Nations communities.

Every year the locals welcome SFU’s cohort of 20-plus students with warm hospitality. "One of my greatest memories during last summer’s course in Haida Gwaii was when my students were invited to paddle Bill Reid’s canoe, Lutas, as part of a community celebration," says Zandvliet. As a result of their unique experience together, he and his students often form a special bond. So much so that when he bumps into former students in the AQ, he’s usually greeted with a hug rather than a simple wave.

This summer, for the first time, the course will be taught in SFU’s own backyard as the result of new partnership with Metro Vancouver. Students in the unique course will address environmental subjects including land-use issues in Burns Bog and the landfill, the Iona waste-water treatment plant and management of the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve and Lynn Canyon. At the Port of Vancouver, students will analyze the city as a living organism. They will shadow and evaluate learning programs for schools conducted there and will also co-lead school programs with Metro Vancouver staff after some training and observation.

Last year, Zandvliet joined the sustainability advisory committee, which he says is a natural extension to his work, and he wants to get involved at a more grassroots level within the university community.

"Sustainability is a process, not an end point," he says, "We need to critically examine our practices and assumptions as part of the movement towards a more critical and reflective way of living."

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