What Ontario’s education curriculum says about the environment

The Ministry of Education sets the environmental education policy, but it is up to the school boards and individual schools to put policies into practice.The Ministry of Education sets the environmental education policy, but it is up to the school boards and individual schools to put policies into practice.

Classrooms across the province will hold Earth Day-themed events and activities to mark the annual environmental celebration. But what’s being taught about the environment during the rest of the school year?

Ontario’s education curriculum lays out, in broad strokes, everything that’s supposed to be taught in schools, and includes information on environmental matters. This is highlighted through the Ministry of Education’s Acting Today, Shaping Tomorrow document, a policy framework for environmental education in Ontario schools, first drafted in 2009.

According to this framework, environmental education is integrated into all grades and all subjects, as appropriate. While environmental education can relate explicitly to subjects surrounding science, technology, social studies or even history, it would be a challenge to include it in other fields.

For example, elementary French teachers are encouraged to seek out texts about environmental topics, enabling students to learn the language as they learn information about other issues and topics impacting their world. It’s suggested that physically-educated teachers include natural environments in a school’s vicinity to encourage environmental education.

At the high school level, drama students are encouraged to use their crafts to comment on environmental or social issues. Business studies students may be taught the environmental impacts of various industrial practices.

The framework states there is no universal model for the implementation of environmental education, but while there’s an overall agreement on principles and concepts, the most specific goals are defined locally by school boards or schools themselves.

As a result, environmental education may look different at each school you could visit, but the underlying message is the same.

For example, Grade 8 students at Viola Desmond Public School in Milton planted seeds to learn how vertical gardens work, while kids at Peterborough’s Kaawaate East City Public School ventured out to the Warsaw Outdoor Education Center earlier this month.

Also embedded in the ministry’s policy is the notion that environmental education is a shared responsibility that doesn’t end when students leave the classroom.

Hench, could see initiatives that encourage environmental considerations at home.

Students at Barrie’s Algonquin Ridge Elementary School may participate in a litterless lunch day, while families are encouraged to pack lunches that produce no waste.

Mississauga’s Churchill Meadows Public School recently celebrated Walk to School Month, encouraging active transportation and lessening one’s carbon footprint.

While the Ministry of Education puts policies in place, families are encouraged to contact their child’s school with any questions or concerns about environmental education practices in the classroom.

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