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Environmental Education Initiative at Jackman ICS

In 2009, The Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School received a considerable grant from the Norman and Marian Robertson Charitable Foundation, anonymous donations, and photographic artist Edward Burtynsky, to embark on a two-year project to advance and disseminate its unique integrated and inquiry-based approach to Environmental Education for elementary schools across Ontario.

The Initiative's main objective was to develop a comprehensive print and web resource aimed at providing Ontario elementary school teachers with reassurance, clarity, and options for putting Environmental Inquiry into practice.

The complete resource, Natural Curiosity: Building Children's Understanding of the World through Environmental Inquiry, was completed and launched on May 10th, 2011 in print and online. Since it’s initial launch, Natural Curiosity has been met with overwhelming success and a third year of the initiative was funded by the Norman and Marian Robertson Charitable Foundation, anonymous donations, and photographic artist Edward Burtynsky.

As part of our educational outreach efforts in the third year, Edward Burtynsky gave a considerable grant to the Environmental Education Initiative to distribute one copy of Natural Curiosity to every elementary school in Ontario. The resource has been the focus of various professional development sessions in school boards across Ontario, and is being used in numerous initial teacher education workshops at faculties of education programs.

The success of Natural Curiosity has led to the development and release of the Environmental Initiatives second teacher resource, “A Companion Guide for Natural Curiosity: Making Environmental Inquiry Work through Teacher Collaboration”. This guide The “Companion Guide” is made up of sessions, run by a facilitator(s), that are approximately 60 minutes in length (times will vary based on length of discussions). The sessions will create a forum for teachers to discuss options for putting inquiry into practice. It will provide the opportunity for teachers to gather together to discuss strategies to make both the content and process of learning about the world more engaging and relevant to students.

In the last four years we have either sold or distributed over 19,000 copies of the resource. One copy of Natural Curiosity can be found in almost every English speaking elementary school across the province. In February of 2015, we completed a translated version of the document with the support of the Ministère de l’Éducation & Ministère de la formation et des Collèges et des Universités

Using an inquiry-based approach to our own professional development models, we have worked closely with upwards of 2000 classroom educators, and 1000 pre-service teachers, from across the province on key strategies and practical ideas to implement inquiry into their classrooms. We are providing a service for teachers that otherwise do not exist – offering continued professional development around a Ministry mandated teaching strategy. 

Our experience working within the field of environmental education has given us the opportunity to connect with Indigenous People’s who hold a deep knowledge of the natural world. Those experiences have been crucial turning points for the Environmental Education Initiative and Natural Curiosity and have shaped the next direction the document will take. We have received a grant from TD Friends of the Environment that would provide Natural Curiosity with the funding needed to work with Indigenous writers and other members of the Indigenous community to further weave Indigenous perspectives within the book.

To download free copies of both Natural Curiosity and it’s “Companion Guide”, and for more information, please visit www.naturalcuriosity.ca. A hard copy of the book Natural Curiosity can be purchased by following the link to the UofT Bookstore on our home page.

"Environmental Inquiry": Our Four-Branch Approach to Environmental Education

  • Inquiry-Based Learning
    Teachers recognize that “inquiry”, the seeking out of knowledge by having children ask questions of each other, is a natural process that all children encounter as they attempt to make sense of the world.  Teachers value students’ emergent ideas and questions, and place them at the centre of student learning; they connect Environmental Education to students’ natural efforts to understand the world. Children solve problems of understanding collaboratively and participate in critical discourse about the world, thereby engaging personally in their own learning as social beings. Teachers carefully facilitate the inquiry process by creating a context for questioning and helping children along their journey of discovering of “big ideas”.
  • Integrated Learning
    Teachers at the Lab School appreciate the interconnectedness of the natural environment and all aspects of life. Learning of any topic crosses multiple subjects, skills, and issues, in order to help students develop a holistic understanding of the world and its interrelated systems.
  • Experiential Learning
    At the Lab School, teachers move beyond the classroom by creating ongoing outdoor learning opportunities and activities that put students in touch with nature, thereby allowing them to experience an appreciation of the earth through the senses.
  • Stewardship
    Teachers at the Lab School believe that when children come to understand the wonders of the environment by being afforded the time to deeply investigate their own questions and theories, children develop an intrinsically caring relationship for the Earth which leads to their growing commitment to protect it.  Teachers support students in developing skills that lead to student-driven environmental awareness initiatives, and action.

Environmental Education Initiative
Outreach Advisory Board

The Outreach Advisory Board was established in order to seek out advice from multiple perspectives that will inform the Resource Document and the work of the Initiative. The Board is comprised of educational, Ministry, and environmental leaders that inspire and forge links outside the classroom and in the community.

Honorary Members      
Edward Burtynsky, Michael de Pencier, David Suzuki, Roberta Bondar

Ron Dembo, Jennifer Canham, Stan Kozak, Deborah McGregor, Laura Nemchin, Erminia Pedretti, Annabel Slaight, Ingrid Stefanovic

      P1   P2    P3

The Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School's Edward Burtynsky Award
for Teaching Excellence in Environmental Education

This Award was created in order to recognize and celebrate outstanding elementary school teachers in the province of Ontario who, through their exemplary teaching methods, create learning situations that inspire students to become environmentally conscious, responsible stewards who take sustainable actions to protect and restore the environment.

The first-prize winner will receive $500 towards Environmental Education related professional development opportunities and a signed Edward Burtynsky print.  In addition, the first-prize winner will receive $1000 for his or her school towards funding Environmental Education learning experiences for students. Two runners-up will each receive $250 toward Environmental Education related professional development opportunities and a book signed by Edward Burtynsky, as well as a signed book for each of their respective school libraries.

For full details and application information, please visit our Natural Curiosity site here.

DSFDr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School Dr. David Suzuki Fellowships

The Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School would like to honour two promising Teacher Candidates graduating from an accredited Ontario Faculty of Education program. These Fellowships have been established to both acknowledge and advance the professional growth of pre-service teachers in the area of Environmental Education.  

In recognition of excellence in pre-service Environmental Education of elementary school children, winning applicants will receive a gift of $500.  As well, winners will have an opportunity to participate in a Fellowship placement at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School, for one week, at a mutually agreeable time. Suzuki Fellows will be able to see, learn, and immerse themselves in Environmental Inquiry, the Lab School’s four-part approach to Environmental Education under the mentorship of Lab School teacher/researchers.

For full details and application information, please visit our Natural Curiosity site here.

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