The goal of this project was to determine how different ways of thinking across traditional curriculum areas such as science, socials, or language arts can improve our social capacity for understanding and taking action around our increasingly complex and convoluted social and environmental problems.
Developing Ecological Literacy at the Bowen Island Community School
Principal Investigator: Dr. David Zandvliet
Co-Investigator: Dr. Allan MacKinnon
Funding Agency: NSERC
How This Project is Carried Out
This research program began as a research development initiative funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and continues as part of the NSERC funded Pacific Crystal project addressing the question: “How can ecological literacy become a core educational standard in our schools?”
Using participatory action research methods and broad multi-stakeholder collaboration in one school over a period of five years , the project richly describes how ecological literacy may be taken up in a case study school. It explores experiential approaches to education while also describing an interdisciplinary view of curriculum, whereby environmental themes become alternative curriculum organizers – guiding local teachers in their instructional planning.
Ecological literacy, or eco-literacy (Orr, 1992), embraces both a scientific understanding of living systems and a humanistic understanding of the interdependent relationship between human beings and the greater biotic and elemental (non-living) world around us. Presumed within this definition and our focal research question above, the goal we envision for our project is to determine how different ways of thinking about science and society in our classrooms can improve our social capacity for understanding and taking action upon our increasingly complex and convoluted social and environmental problems. This project is studying the complex ecology of this intersection between scientific knowledge, pedagogy, student learning and curriculum. Through this research, we identify and develop innovative approaches for the teaching of scientific and interdisciplinary topics around ecological education framed within the context of ecological literacy. We include socio-scientific discourse, problem and place-based constructivist approaches to learning, and inquiry-oriented teaching and learning as central elements with this approach to teaching.
The model we are using for the involvement of teachers in studying their own classroom and curriculum environments follows a participatory action research methodology, allowing teachers, as participants of the study, to be co-investigators and co-creators of knowledge with us in this on-going research and professional development.
Why This Project Matters
This project provides insights for the development of place-based environmental programming through the recounting of one 'lighthouse school's' five year experiences within the Pacific CRYSTAL Project. The Bowen Island Community School (BICS) experience supports and encourages place-based curriculum development in other schools by demonstrating practices successful in meeting broad environmental learning goals. As the project is recounted from the eyes ears and experiences of the teachers and school community it is easy to access these findings. Over five years, a number of innovative approaches for the teaching of scientific and interdisciplinary topics framed within the context of eco-literacy were identified and developed by the BICS community. Place-based approaches to learning and inquiry-oriented teaching and learning were central elements of this study.
How This Project is Put Into Action
The unique natural setting of Bowen Island Community School lends itself to in depth Environment Educational learning experiences. Playing on the theme of "Mission Impossible", each of our 13 devisions identified and developed a "mission" to better achieve our school wide goal of improving environmental social responsibility. Our school and community work closely together in the areas of conservation and stewardship. We call these projects, "Missions Possible". Here is our mission- Choose to be inspired!