A recap of the Canadian Network for Environmental Education & Communication’s spring 2012 conference

The Canadian Network for Environmental Education & Communication (EECOM) is Canada’s only national, bilingual, charitable network for environmental learning.

Each year, EECOM partners with an environmental organization or agency in a different province to offer a conference bringing together environmental educators and communicators from government, non-profit, education and academia sectors.

From May 30 to June 1, 2012, EECOM partnered with the Canadian Environmental Studies Association, the Canadian Community of Practice in Ecosystem Approaches to Health, and Making Ourselves Useful: Environmental Scholarship in an Unsustainable World, for a large “mega conference” held in Waterloo, Ontario.

The EECOM conference featured 33 sessions with 45 different presentations from across the country.  I presented about the HaltonRecycles social media program which includes this blog and Twitter.

I really enjoyed Jillian Baker’s presentation “Are You Climate Smarter Than A Fourth Grader?”  In Nova Scotia, Jillian undertook a study of grade four students’ understanding of climate change.  Student’s water-colour paintings were used as an assessment tool to identify common misconceptions as to the cause or science of climate change, and then to learn how students’ understanding changed or improved after a series of educational activities.  I really appreciated the use of visual arts as a learning and assessment tool, one that I think we too often forget about in a rush to test with quizzes and exams.

Jocelyn Murtell presented on “Encouraging Emancipatory Environmental Behaviours in Secondary School Students.”  I admit, I didn’t quite know what this would be about, but it was interesting.  Her study looked at special four-credit environmental studies programs, and whether high school students moved beyond “domestic” environmental behaviours like recycling, to “emancipatory” behaviours rooted more in activism and environmental social justice.

It was funny that I traveled to Waterloo to be reminded about the great education programs offered by our neighbours at the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG).  Ian Hendry presented on “Environmental Education Programs: Integrating New Technologies.”  The RBG offers many outdoor environmental educational programs, many of which use new technologies like smart phones, GPSs, digital cameras, and video conferencing to make nature more relevant to a technologically savvy, “plugged-in” youth generation.  I really liked the demonstration of the digital data loggers, small handheld devices that use various probes to instantly measure and record temperature, light, pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrates, phosphates, turbidity, and rate of flow — kind of like a Star Trek “tricorder.”

Environmental education is alive and well in Canada.  Organizations like EECOM enable educators and communicators to share best practices, present important research, and network.  This enables participants, like Halton Region, to develop education programs and communication programs — rooted in sound research — that are efficient and effective.

If you attended the conference, what did you take take away from it?

About John Watson

I'm a communicator, educator and project manager with a focus on environmental and public works issues. Previously, I was the Onboarding Director for ReCollect Systems, where I implemented digital communication products for municipalities and non-profits. For eight years, I was the Waste Diversion Educator Coordinator for Halton Region, where I implemented award winning communications and outreach programs.
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