Ontario eyes adding environmental studies to school curriculums

March 1, 2007 The Globe and Mail  KAREN HOWLETT

TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is creating a curriculum council that will look at introducing environmental studies into the province's public schools, according to sources.

The council will be chaired by Dennis Thiessen, a professor at the University of Toronto and curriculum leader at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
Education Minister Kathleen Wynne and Environment Minister Laurel Broten will unveil the initiative this morning at Norseman Junior Middle School in Toronto, which teaches pupils from junior kindergarten to Grade 8.

Officials in Ms. Wynne's and Ms. Broten's office did not return telephone messages yesterday.

But government and education sources said the idea behind the council is to have the environment play a meaningful role in education by introducing environmental literacy throughout the curriculum rather than confining it to one course.

"I'm delighted the government is planting the seeds of environmental stewardship in students," said Josh Matlow, a trustee at the Toronto District School Board.
Mr. Matlow has been pushing the government to reintroduce environmental studies into the curriculum.

Tom Puk, a professor at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, who also has been pushing for several years to have ecological education in the school curriculum, declined to comment on today's announcement.

But he said it is paramount for the government to ensure that schools take global warming and the environment seriously.

"If we don't clean up the ecological degradation we've created so far, you won't have jobs, you won't have family, you won't have other courses in school because you won't have anything," he said.

"People will be either sick, diseased or dead."

With global warming rapidly becoming a top priority for government and business leaders, Ms. Wynne has acknowledged that there is a need to bring more environmental education into the curriculum.

The environment has not formally been part of the curriculum since 1998, when the Progressive Conservative government at the time eliminated environmental science courses from the Grades 9 and 10 curriculum, according to the Forum for Ecological Education and Action, a website created by Prof. Puk.