This is a website on environmental justice, so why focus on education?

We chose education as a research topic because we believe it is a crucial building block in understanding the environmental issues of Windsor, Ontario. With regard to the local K-12 schools, the pro’s and con’s behind the Ontario EcoSchool initiative are examined. Environmental education is becoming increasingly  visible in schools around the world and is an excellent way to encourage students to learn about the importance of sustainable living.  The “Education” section also considers social and environmental justice issues as studied and enacted at the University of Windsor and in the larger Windsor community. Acknowledging and examining the presence of  such education, or lack thereof, is crucial to recognizing what has happened and what should happen for a community to continue to grow into what its inhabitants want it to be: healthy. Sources on these latter topics include the University of Windsor student newspaper, the Windsor city newspaper, and materials by various community organizations.

K-12 Education

The following comments are based on preliminary internet research (plus two telephone interviews) and are not intended as exhaustive or definitive.  Rather, the findings represent a preliminary and tentative effort to gain at least some measure of understanding of these important and complex issues.

Windsor is a part of Greater Essex County. This section focuses on the Ontario EcoSchool initiative and its effect in K-12 classrooms in Greater Essex County. (It should be noted that in Canada, elementary education comprises grades 1-8, while secondary education includes grades 9-12 [high school].) The research for what is reported here focused on nine public schools in Windsor: J.L Forster (Secondary), Hugh Beaton (Elementary), Roseland Public School (Elementary), Prince Edward (Elementary), Riverside (Secondary), Oakwood (Elementary), J.E Benson (Elementary), John Campbell (Secondary), and Bellewood (Elementary).  These schools vary with regard to size, as well as to achievements in the EcoSchool Initiative program. While all schools were contacted for comments, only Roseland and Bellewood responded.  Therefore, the original goal — comparing and contrasting the nine schools based on their achievements — could not be achieved.  Instead, the focus became: investigating The Ontario EcoSchool curriculum and resources, and their effects on K-12 classrooms in the Windsor Greater Essex County region.  The findings are organized around the following questions/issues:

  1. What is the Ontario EcoSchool initiative? How did it start and what does it wish to achieve?
  2. Missing pieces to the puzzle: a critical analysis of the situation.
  3.  closing thoughts on the Ontario EcoSchool initiative.

University Of Windsor and Community

This section considers the extent to which environmental and social justice education efforts exist in Windsor, by examining local newspapers and information about/by community organizations. The University of Windsor’s newspaper, The Lance,  provides a glimpse into what students are saying about these issues. Similarly, a sampling of articles from the city’s main newspaper, the Windsor Star, offers a window on how environmental topics are being presented to community residents.  Taking into account the main sources of information on environmental concerns as they manifest locally, one might then consider how the extent and nature of this information facilitates or impedes action toward social change.  Perhaps local community members will be able to use the information and resources gathered here to further efforts toward environmental justice in their community.

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