News, Faculty and Research

Earth Day 2021 with the Faculty of Education

April 22, 2021

First established in 1970, Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 that raises awareness and support for environmental protection.

The theme for Earth Day 2021 is Restore Our Earth, which focuses on natural processes, emerging green technologies and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems.

The theme encourages the notion that “it is up to each and every one of us to ‘Restore Our Earth’ not just because we care about the natural world, but because we live on it. We all need a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health & survival, and happiness. A healthy planet is not an option — it is a necessity.” 

We connected with Dr. David Zandvliet, a professor in the Faculty of Education and the UNESCO Chair in Bio-cultural Diversity and Education, to discover what students and educators can do to “restore our Earth” and lead the charge in sustainability and restoration initiatives in their schools and communities.

What is "Bio-cultural Diversity"?

Bio-cultural Diversity can be described as ‘the diversity of life in all its manifestations: biologicalcultural, and linguistic — which are interrelated within a complex and adaptive system. This diversity of life is made up not only of the diversity of plants and animal species, habitats and ecosystems, but also of the diversity of human cultures and languages.

The concept of Bio-cultural Diversity is a dynamic one and takes the local values and practices of different cultural groups as its starting point for sustainable living. For educators, the issue is not only in working to preserve or restore these practices and values, but also to modify, adapt and create diversity in ways that resonate with both rural and urban populations.

Below are a few resources recommended by Dr. Zandvliet that can help educators start to get a better understanding of Bio-cultural Diversity and learn more about their local environment and culture.

Environmental Learning and Experience (British Columbia Ministry of Education)

This guide helps British Columbia teachers of all subjects and grades to integrate environmental concepts into teaching and learning. Designed as a support framework to guide teachers in their education planning, the guide also aims to support the implementation of many of the Integrated Resource Packages (IRP’s) and will be complemented by web resources to support environmental learning in diverse subjects like science, social studies and language arts. It is your guide to interdisciplinary practice — using the environment as an organizing theme.

BC First Peoples Principle of Learning (First Nations Education Steering Committee) 

Because the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning represent an attempt to identify common elements in the varied teaching and learning approaches that prevail within particular First Nations societies, it must be recognized that they do not capture the full reality of the approach used in any single First Peoples’ society. 

When making connections with the local First Nations community, teachers (or students) may find it helpful to investigate how pedagogy is articulated and practiced within that community. This investigation will likely happen incrementally over time, as the pedagogical approach articulated and practiced within the local communities will not necessarily be set out in an easy-to-summarize form. Ultimately, one important conclusion for students to draw is that pedagogy in First Nations societies is both dynamic and culturally specific (i.e., grounded in a distinctive language and way of looking at the world).

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Teachers' Toolkit: UNESCO School Network in Canada

This practical Toolkit benefits all educators and students who are interested in implementing UNESCO values at their schools. They hope it will contribute to schools’ efforts to make intercultural learning, global citizenship education, sustainable development education and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples a shared priority and responsibility. Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO) developed the Toolkit to provide UNESCO Schools educators with practical information and activities designed to help students discover and understand UNESCO themes. While the Toolkit uses a Canadian lens, it addresses many universal themes taught in schools around the world.  

The instructional material in the Toolkit is designed to address crucial themes aimed at advancing peace in schools and their communities. Teachers and students will encounter a variety of practical learning experiences and resources to explore these themes and the network’s areas of action. Education has a key role to play in promoting peace, sustainable societies, climate action, Indigenous ways of knowing, learning and being, reconciliation, and respect for human rights. They hope this Toolkit encourages students and educators to play an active role in making our world a better place for the future.

Old Ways are the New Way Forward: How Indigenous Pedagogy can Benefit Everyone

This reflection paper argues that traditional Indigenous ways of teaching and learning are relevant not only for Indigenous people, but for the education of all people. As teachers and practitioners, the authors seek to explore the connection between what is sometimes referred as “new” innovations in education with the forms of teaching that originated in traditional Indigenous education ways. For instance, think of differentiated instruction, daily physical activity, outdoor education, place-based, experiential, embodied, or service learning—pick a pedagogical buzzword—and there is likely some root to be found in the ways that worked for Indigenous communities for millennia. So why not explore how the old ways could be the new way forward?

Biocultural Diversity Education Initiative: An Overview of a New Approach to Education and Curriculum Development

Biocultural Diversity Education Initiative (BDEI) curriculum aims to introduce students to the idea of the diversity of life in all of its manifestations (biological, cultural, and linguistic); the “inextricable link” among these manifestations of diversity; the role of local languages and traditional knowledge in connecting people and the environment and in fostering more sustainable living; the “biocultural diversity extinction crisis” that is threatening the survival of life on earth, its causes and consequences; and why youth should care and take action, both locally and globally. BDEI’s pedagogical approach promotes learning that is not abstract and passive, but rather, hands-on and engaged with the big issues that the world faces today. The ultimate goal is to stimulate integrative thinking and promote meaningful learning experience in young people, in order to foster understanding of and caring for the biocultural diversity of life, on which human well-being and the well-being of all other species depend.

Suuda Ganunsid, ad gina waadluuxan gan yahguudang Xaayda Gwaay.yaay iiji ("To inspire Understanding and Respect for All That Haida Gwaii is...")

This paper aims to show how the Haida Gwaii Museum established a museum that provides a holistic, informal space for learning experiences that cuts across traditional museum boundaries. In addition to caring for and exhibiting our Haida treasures, Saahlinda Naay is a place for transmitting our traditional Haida Laws of Yahguudang (“Respect”) and ad Kyanang kunGasda (“to ask first”), and our Haida language, Xaayda Kil. Saahlinda Naay also promotes intangible cultural heritage and stimulates creativity and community development.

The Heart of our Biosphere: Exploring Our Civic Relationship with the Ocean in Canada

Through our lived and shared experiences, the ocean can come to mean something different to us all. For some, the ocean is directly linked to livelihoods, food security and socio-cultural well-being. For others, the ocean is an escape, a place to recalibrate, recreate and explore. For others still, whether by lack of accessibility or by choice, the ocean is a distant unknown. We depend on the ocean for all manner of needs. Scientists inform us that the ocean absorbs 30% of all anthropogenic carbon emissions and 80% of the heat added to the global system, contributing to the regulation of regional and global climate. Government and industry report that the ocean and its resources provide over $20 billion in annual economic activity in Canada, including food, medicines and mineral and energy resources, as well as billions more in ocean trade passing through our waters. Coastal Indigenous peoples and local experts teach us (best) about ocean relationship(s) and resiliency: ways of knowing grounded in place, in which health, culture, equity, and livelihoods continuously intersect.

Join the Institute for Environmental Learning for an Earth Day Panel Discussion & Social: The Future of Environmental Learning (April 22 & 23)

The Institute for Environmental Learning invites you to join them in celebrating 50 years of Environmental Education and engaging in a panel discussion on how we can move the Environmental Learning field forward and begin to include deeper and richer cultural perspectives on our work.

Panel Discussion + Social

Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021 
Time: 4:30–6:00 pm 
Location: Online via Zoom 



Dr. Jeannette Armstrong

Dr. Jeannette Armstrong, Canada Research Chair in Okanagan Indigenous Knowledge and Philosophy, aims to address existing barriers to research within this indigenous community by surveying, analyzing and categorizing Syilx captikwl (mythology) and smamay (legends) from a variety of published and unpublished collections.

Dr. Jennifer D. Adams

Dr. Jennifer D. Adams was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. After college she worked in physical therapy for two years before entering the field of education. Dr. Adams taught high school Biology in the New York City Public Schools and concurrently worked as a field instructor for New York City Outward Bound.  Dr. Adams then moved on to the American Museum of Natural History where she worked as a manager of teacher education. Dr. Adams completed a MS in nutrition at Brooklyn College, CUNY and an MA in education at New York University followed by a PhD in urban education with a Science, Math and Technology specialization at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Prior to joining the University of Calgary in 2017, Dr. Adams was an associate professor of science education at Brooklyn College, CUNY. Dr. Adams enjoys running and dance.

Dr. Herman J. Michell

Herman J. Michell, PhD is a member of the Barren Lands Cree Nation, former Executive Director of the Northern Teacher Education Program – Northern Professional Access College and is originally from the small fishing/trapping community of Kinoosao on the eastern shores of Reindeer Lake in northern Saskatchewan.