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Unique Environmental school gets research funding

April 8, 2010

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The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) has awarded SFU and several partners a million-dollar grant to research the proposed development of a unique K–7 environmental school and learning centre in Maple Ridge.

Education faculty researchers Sean Blenkinsop, Kieran Egan and Mark Fettes will lead the five-year research project in collaboration with the city of Maple Ridge, School District 42, the Katzie and Kwantlen first nations and local environmental and community groups.

Subject to school board approval, the project aims to open this school of choice in 2011, marrying its delivery of B.C.’s required public school curriculum with activities nurturing environmental awareness, engagement with the natural world and community sustainability.

Students would study and experience environmental and community issues by going where they occur and would be guided by experiential and imaginative education principles in their learning.

For example, "in response to recent fish kills along the Alouette River, the river could become a recurring classroom," says Jodi MacQuarrie, an SFU education doctoral student and Maple Ridge School District teacher working on the project.

"One of the teachers could be a member of the Alouette River Management Society who takes a multi-aged group of students to the river’s shore to observe salmon spawning grounds.

"Students would learn, alongside community experts, about chemistry, physics and biology by studying fish and water samples from the river. Literacy and numeracy skills could be taught in a real-word context as the students present their findings to parents, local community groups and government agencies."

All stakeholders involved would help educators evaluate student learning, which would be geared to fostering knowledge, resolving environmental issues and supporting community sustainability, adds MacQuarrie.

The proposed school’s teaching would be partly based on education techniques developed by Egan and applied by Fettes at schools in Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii and Chilliwack, which emphasize culturally inclusive imaginative development and emotional engagement.

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