Tantramar Region Students Get Educated in Sustainable Development

By: Trevor Donald

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) can be defined as “a learning process (or approach to teaching) based on the ideals and principles that underlie sustainability and is concerned with all levels and types of learning to provide quality education and foster sustainable human development – learning to know, learning to be, learning to live together, learning to do and learning to transform oneself and society.” ESD requires far-reaching changes in the way education is often practiced today. The Tantramar region already has ESD that is happening in the local communities through informal, formal and non-formal programs  like workshops, extracurricular and curriculum based learning. A good example is Emily Hogan, a geography student at Mount Allison University. Hogan hails from Vancouver, BC and teaches ESD to students at Salem Elementary School and has an activity book for elementary schoolers called “Hemlock Holmes.”

Nancy MacKinnon is a Sackville resident and high school teacher at Tantramar Regional High School and is involved with the Tantramar Wetlands Centre a community-based centre of wetlands education specializing in experiential programming aimed at public school students and teachers. The Tantramar Wetlands Centre (TWC) is the result of a partnership between Environment Canada-Canadian Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Town of Sackville, School District 2 (renamed Anglophone East School District) , and Tantramar Regional High School. The TWC is recognized nationally as a centre of excellence and internationally by RAMSAR (the Convention on Wetlands) and received their first place award for schools promoting the wise-use of wetlands in the Americas in 2011. The TWC receives 5000 plus visitors annually. Mackinnon said “Chris Porter was the original teacher with the vision for the Wetlands Centre – this is the 7th year that I have been doing the job of executive director since his retirement.” As a result of MacKinnon’s, her predecessor Chris Porter and her “Wethead” team’s work the Sackville community and region has gained greater appreciation of its wetlands. Youths are fully engaged in activities intended to increase the knowledge base of wetland ecosystems and developing techniques to bring their knowledge at the appropriate level to younger students in the “kids teaching kids” programs of the Tantramar Centre of Excellence facility.

Mount Allison student and RCE Tantramar coordinator Emily Phillips is also involved with ESD in local area schools. Phillips recently taught four grade 7 and 8 science classes at EB Chandler Junior High some basics about sustainability. She remarked “students were curious to find out where common things that we consume in our everyday lives come from and what kind impact that has on the planet.” Phillips also attended the 7th Global RCE Conference held in Tongyeong, Republic of Korea in September this year. The global community of Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCEs) came together to express their ongoing commitment to promoting education for sustainable development (ESD) through the adoption of the RCE Declaration on ESD. The declaration outlines that ESD includes key sustainable development issues into teaching and learning; for example, climate change, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity, poverty reduction, and sustainable consumption. It also requires participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change their behavior and take action for sustainable development. Education for Sustainable Development consequently promotes competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios and making decisions in a collaborative way.

The global network of Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCEs), is looking to 2014 and beyond The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). RCE Tantramar is committed to implementing strategies in the Tantramar region that support or take actions that build a global learning space on ESD. RCEs are a tool for transformation to a more sustainable society, combining education and action for sustainable development. RCEs also recognize their unique position, as grassroots, multi-stakeholder networks, with distinctive capacities for research and innovation that can revitalize education at all levels through flagship projects. As regionally based yet globally connected networks, RCEs form a global learning space on ESD, working to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to learn the values, behaviors and lifestyles required for a sustainable future and for positive social transformation.

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