Climate Education OPP Project

 Global Culture. Credit: wildpixel from iStock Images.

The effects of climate change are extreme. They can be devastating. And increasingly, they’re all-encompassing, inescapable.

Because climate change is multi-faceted, touching all parts of our lives, the way teachers teach it and students learn it must change.

It’s not just about one course, it’s about all the courses.

Infusing Climate Education into the BC Curriculum is attempting to show the way for the province and K to 12 educators as part of PICS’ Opportunity Project Program (OPP).

More than a decade ago, members of the Institute for Environmental Learning led development of a framework for the BC Ministry of Education for environmental education and experience. This new research project incorporates Indigenous knowledges and is a necessary and timely update because climate action is more urgently needed than ever. Both the Ministry of Education and the Climate Action Secretariat are Solution Seeker partners in this project.  

The project goals are three-fold: to revise the document, show teachers ways they can make environmental education part of all classes and provide professional development to all educators.

“There are creative teachers who are doing this around the province, but they’re cloistered in their classrooms, they’re maybe not talking to their colleagues and sharing the approaches that they use,” says David Zandvliet, one of the project’s principal investigators.

The first stage of research will be a support framework to guide teachers in their education planning — complemented by resources to support environmental learning in diverse subjects —  assisting them in integrating climate education into teaching and learning. The next step addresses curriculum mapping to help teachers turn theory into practice by connecting learning outcomes across the K-to-12 curriculum. Professional development will aid educators in putting the pieces together and into use in the classroom.

The project’s action research methodology, Zandvliet says, involves both seeking wisdom and spreading ideas, like a bee seeking nectar spreads pollen. Thus, the project will include hosting events around BC at which teachers can share effective climate teaching methods and Indigenous people can share valuable traditional knowledge.

And subsequently infusing that climate wisdom into the K to 12 curriculum will be about much more than science class.

“I think this sustainability game that we’re trying to win is really a cultural change that needs to happen,” Zandvliet says. “It’s not just about scientific solutions, it’s about thinking through the sustainability problems in a socio-cultural way as well. Unless we address things like superfluous consumption and a lack of thought in urban planning… we’re going to have more major problems to solve.”

The previous framework “really resonated with educators,” says Nick Poeschek, the director for curriculum and classroom assessment for the Ministry of Education and Child Care, one of the Solution Seeker partners.

The update, he says, aligns with the ministry’s approach of reinforcing learning in a cross-curricular way. “The environment… touches on all areas of the curriculum and we want to make sure people aren’t just seeing it as, oh, that’s just a science issue, or that’s just a social studies issue related to the economics. We’re really wanting to build a holistic understanding.”

Poeschek also says the desire for BC-specific curriculum is high and there’s plenty of demand from teachers for such supports. “We’ve heard time and time again how much they are looking for these types of resources,” he says. “Climate is absolutely at the top of their list.”

Opportunity Project: Began Jan. 1, 2022 / Project duration: three years

Research Partners

Principal Investigators

Dr. David B. Zandvliet

Dr. David B. Zandvliet

Professor, Faculty of Education, SFU; co-director, Institute for Environmental Learning; UNESCO Chair in Bio-cultural Diversity and Education

Shannon Leddy

Dr. Shannon Leddy

Assistant professor of teaching, Faculty of Education, UBC; co-director, Institute for Environmental Learning

Solution Seekers

  • Climate Action Secretariat, BC Ministry of Environment
  • Education Programs Division, BC Ministry of Education and Child Care