Environmental Learning and Experience

What if ecological literacy became a core educational standard in our schools? How might teachers interpret the curriculum?

Principal Investigator: Dr. David Zandvliet
Funding Agencies: SSHRC and Vancouver Foundation

How This Project is Carried Out

The primary objectives of this SSHRC and Vancouver Foundation-funded program are to disseminate, deepen and expand the current research on environmental learning and education for sustainable development to K-12 teachers, and to seek greater engagement from community stakeholders (parent groups, business and community organizations, NGOs, First Nations, federal, provincial and municipal governments).

There is a growing interest in environmental learning and sustainability among educators, and recent developments in British Columbia curricula have responded to this increasing awareness and demand. In 2007, a new provincial framework for K-12 environmental education – Environmental Learning and Experience (ELE) – was spearheaded by project lead, David Zandvliet, and SFU, along with the Environmental Educators Provincial Specialists’ Association (EEPSA) of the British Columbia Teachers’ and Metro Vancouver. It is now available on the BC Ministry of Education’s website to assist educators in integrating the environment and sustainability into their teaching practices.

Why This Project Matters

This curriculum framework presents an integrated approach to environmental learning because so many school subject areas and learning outcomes touch on environmental topics in some way. By emphasizing the study of environment that is infused across the curriculum, it is hoped that both children and adults will come to understand how their actions affect both local and global environments.

In addition to offering a conceptual framework for introducing environmental learning in all classrooms, this revised curriculum resource also provides several general principles of teaching and learning to guide community and school educators in designing integrated activities for their learners. It is a guide to infuse the environment across the curriculum and use the environment as an organizing theme.

Central to the Environmental Learning and Experience framework are two elements:

  • The Experiential Learning Cycle: Refers to the experiential learning cycle, which is a view of teaching and learning that emphasizes direct experience, critical reflection and negotiation as foundations for the learning process.  
  • The curriculum organizer, C.A.R.E.: The mnemonic and metaphor C.A.R.E. (Complexity, Aesthetics, Responsibility and Ethics) can be used to describe the various forms environmental knowledge can take. C.A.R.E. demonstrates the interdisciplinary nature of environmental concepts, while showing a development of ideas that can lead toward deeper engagement with environmental learning in all of its forms.

Where to Learn More

Case Study: Scott Barnes

Case Study: Sarekha Neel

Case Study: Caroline Brooke

Making Teaching and Learning About Sustainability Matters