April 22, 2016
Earth Day 2016
April 22 was Earth Day and all sorts of activities took place on the UCalgary campus, (including the Campus Clean Up and Barbeque), across the city, the country, and in many countries around the world to mark the 46th anniversary of the day set aside to recognize the importance of environmental conservation.
With the discussion on environment often a daily topic—especially in the current era of global warming—more and more schools and school systems are putting an increasing emphasis on developing a strong environmental awareness and consciousness in their students.
In the Werklund School of Education, undergraduate students who will move into teaching positions in these schools are increasingly engaged in outdoor educational initiatives, and graduate students can take master’s programs that focus on outdoor education and education for the environment.
Both groups engage in a range of studies in biology and ecosystems, and partake in field experiences that focus on a deeper understanding of the local and global environment, and what individuals can do to strengthen commitments to protecting and preserving the world around us.
While many Werklund students will enter the teaching profession, some will move into other areas connected to education. Two recent graduates have done just that: Jaclyn Angotti is the Education Director for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and Mike Bingley is the Experiential Education Manager with the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
As Education Director for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Southern Alberta Chapter (CPAWS SAB), I am responsible for overseeing our Education department. Each year, CPAWS SAB delivers 400 environmental education programs in the Calgary area. There are many tasks I am involved in to ensure the success of our program, such as hiring and training staff and volunteers, ensuring programs and materials are up-to-date, budgeting, fund development, strategic planning, marketing, website management, and representing CPAWS SAB Education at various conferences, workshops and other events.
All of these tasks included in my role are driven by a big picture concept that guides the work of all staff here at CPAWS SAB. We work to preserve, protect and properly manage parks and wilderness spaces in southern Alberta. A huge part of that from an education perspective is raising awareness about the conservation issues our parks and wild spaces are facing and talking about what needs to be done in order to mitigate these issues. We aspire to inspire students to become passionate about the natural environments that we are so lucky to have at our doorstep here in Alberta and encourage them to take action to support the conservation of these environments.
Taking on action projects that make a difference is hugely important to us at CPAWS SAB and ties in seamlessly with what Earth Day is all about. Earth Day is important for those passionate about the health and preservation of our planet to raise awareness, take action and inspire others to get involved. There are many possibilities for Earth Day-friendly environmental action projects and could be taken on alone, with family members, or with classmates, coworkers, or the entire community. Something as simple as pledging to reduce water use or reduce waste by recycling or composting is a great start and can make a difference. Educating others about the issues facing our environment is another great way to show your love for our planet. Organizing a litter clean-up or a bake sale to raise funds and awareness about a conservation issue is another suggestion. For more ideas on engaging students in conservation and action this Earth Day, check out our Resources for Environmental Education. The possibilities are endless and here at CPAWS SAB we believe that everyone in our city can find a meaningful way to show their love and respect for our wonderful, precious Earth!
In my work with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, I have the privilege of developing and operating programs that connect Canadians with the natural world. One of these programs is our Wild Family Nature Club, a program that helps families take part in unstructured play in the outdoors. Why do we, Canada’s largest conservation charity, care about outdoor play? Because we know that kids who play outside grow up to care about conservation. We also know that outdoor play is on the decline and something needs to be done if modern conservation is to succeed.
Thankfully, families are joining us. Since we launched the program last winter, more than 12,000 people have taken part. I believe that this reflects our human longing to be outside and that we have simply given people an excuse to do so.
Although the seeds of a conservation ethic are planted in childhood, they continue to grow throughout one’s life. I’m also lucky enough to have developed a youth leadership program where students plan and execute their own conservation project (Wild Outside), an adventure program where student go looking for migrating species (Wild Migrations) and I’m always developing more. Luckily, all the programs that I’ve mentioned are free for students to take part in and we’re always looking for more participants!
Rachel Carson, who is widely credited with founding the modern environmental movement, once wrote that to create a sense of wonder, “it is not half so important to know as to feel.” I believe that’s something that has been missing from many environmental education programs around the world. As adults, we try to force children of every age to confront bigger problems than they should be expected to solve on their own or we fear beginning the process of exploration because we don’t know all the answers. We need to realize that sometimes it’s okay not to know the answers and that exploring together can be a powerful learning experience. This earth day and every day, you should try to explore a little bit, get outside, be adventurous! It’s even better if you can share that adventure with a child!