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Cultivating Environmental Citizenship Across Disciplines at Canadore College

Dec 5, 2022 | Julia Burke, PT Faculty, Canadore College & Faculty Liaison (Environment & Arts), Centre for Teaching Excellence, U of Waterloo

Forest trails

I am thrilled to be sharing the newly revised GED100 Environmental Citizenship course with my students at Canadore College this fall. Students from across program areas will take action to support the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), apply systems thinking, and make more sustainable decisions in their everyday life and future career.

I’m teaching students from aviation, business, culinary management, cinematography, mental health, and more. We need sustainability leaders in all disciplines. Environmental citizenship  begins with awareness and appreciation of the environment. One of my current environmental citizenship students put it beautifully:

“It’s hard to value what you don’t see.

Haley Grant, GED 100 student

Students engage in reflection and discussion to strengthen their awareness. Students share examples of environmental citizens in their own lives to see that action is not something that happens out there, but rather right here. Discussion boards are filled with stories of aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, neighbours and friends. This helps encourage environmental actions of those in their community and helps build an environmentally-minded community for the students outside this online course. We hear stories of everyday people tree planting, gardening, visiting farmers’ markets, and installing solar panels.

Learning about environmental challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss is not easy. Eco-grief and eco-anxiety impact our students. We explore not only the challenges, but also how to move forward. Students see the collective actions taken across the globe as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including how Canadore is working to address each of the 17 SDG Goals. It is not solely up to individuals. We look at how governments, for-profit, and not-for-profit organizations can make change and those that are leading the way.

While I strive to equip students with the knowledge and skills to be environmental citizens, it is often the spaces to reflect, share, and connect that create the most powerful learning experiences. Students are given space to recognize the value they have for the environment; to see the environmental citizens in their midst; and to take their own action knowing they are not acting alone.