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Burtynsky Award

Edward Burtynski Award

The Annual Edward Burtynsky Award for Teaching Excellence in Environmental Education was established by The Laboratory School at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study. This Award was made possible by the Norman and Marian Robertson Charitable Foundation, the generosity of anonymous donors, andworld-renowned Environmentalist and Photographic Artist, Edward Burtynsky. This Award was created in order to recognize and celebrate outstanding elementary school teachers in the province of Ontario who, through their exemplary teaching methods, create learning opportunities that inspire students to become environmentally conscious, responsible world citizens who take sustainable action that protects and restores the environment, thereby creating hope for future generations. The first-prize winner will receive $500 towards Environmental Education related professional development opportunities and a signed Edward Burtynsky print. In addition, the first-prize winner will receive $1000 for his or her school towards funding Environmental Education learning experiences for students. Two runners-up will each receive $250 toward Environmental Education related professional development opportunities and a book signed by Edward Burtynsky, as well as a signed book for each of their respective school libraries. We invite elementary school teachers across Ontario who are worthy of recognition to submit an application.

We also ask all Ontarians to look to their school communities for teachers whose commendable practices in Environmental Education make them excellent candidates for this Award. Both self-submissions and third-party nominations are encouraged. Please read the official Submission Guidelines, Submission Rationale, and Submission Form to find out how to apply. Thank you for caring for our environment.

 

Burtynsky Call for Submission form

 

Ellie Clin

» 2016 Grand Prize Winner

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Ellie Clin
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Ellie Clin is an environmentally-inspired classroom educator at The Grove Community School in Toronto, the first public alternative elementary school with a commitment to teaching the curriculum through the lenses of social justice, community activism, and environmentalism.

Ellie and her students have learned through a variety of place-based and global environmental inquiries over the years. From partnering with organizations such as the StopGap Foundation or the Toronto Region Conservation Authority; to engaging in long-term artistic studies of the life in their school yard; to planting vegetables for community meals in the garden, they strive to learn more about and become stewards for the local environment. And, by investigating Antarctic wildlife through Ellie’s expedition as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow; tagging and tracking monarch butterfly migration; and creating environmental short films for the Planet In Focus student film festival, they also engage in making connections with the wider global community.

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Ellie Clin

Ellie Clin is an environmentally-inspired classroom educator at The Grove Community School in Toronto, the first public alternative elementary school with a commitment to teaching the curriculum through the lenses of social justice, community activism, and environmentalism.

Ellie and her students have learned through a variety of place-based and global environmental inquiries over the years. From partnering with organizations such as the StopGap Foundation or the Toronto Region Conservation Authority; to engaging in long-term artistic studies of the life in their school yard; to planting vegetables for community meals in the garden, they strive to learn more about and become stewards for the local environment. And, by investigating Antarctic wildlife through Ellie’s expedition as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow; tagging and tracking monarch butterfly migration; and creating environmental short films for the Planet In Focus student film festival, they also engage in making connections with the wider global community.

Ellie is active in EcoSchools initiatives at The Grove and is passionate about sharing her students’ inquiries with other educators. She presents at professional conferences — including the TDSB’s first elementary STEM conference, and OISE’s Pollinating Partnerships Symposium — facilitates the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Project WILD educator workshops, and volunteers with the Monarch Teacher Network of Canada. As an Associate Teacher, she mentors pre-service educators in environmental inquiry best practices. You can follow more of Ellie’s adventures at www.penguinlearners.com or @penguinlearners.

Rebecca Birtzu

» 2016 Runner Up

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Rebecca Birtzu
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Rebecca Birtzu has been a classroom teacher for 8 years. She currently teaches grade 1/2 at Christian Island Elementary School located in Beausoleil First Nation. Rebecca loves connecting with nature and she has always felt an inherent responsibility to care for the environment. The responsibility to care for the environment is an important focus for Rebecca as she tries to infuse this into her teaching.

Rebecca has taught in many First Nation communities located throughout northern Canada. Living and working in such northern locations has helped her understand how indigenous culture, language, lifestyle practices and traditions are intertwined with the environment. The experience working with and learning from local elders, healers, teachers, hunters, artisans, parents, and students has taught her to embrace the environment as part of the classroom. This experience has also inspired her to make the obvious connection in her lesson planning where she takes her students outdoors to learn in their natural and celebrated environment.

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Rebecca Birtzu

Rebecca Birtzu has been a classroom teacher for 8 years. She currently teaches grade 1/2 at Christian Island Elementary School located in Beausoleil First Nation. Rebecca loves connecting with nature and she has always felt an inherent responsibility to care for the environment. The responsibility to care for the environment is an important focus for Rebecca as she tries to infuse this into her teaching.

Rebecca has taught in many First Nation communities located throughout northern Canada. Living and working in such northern locations has helped her understand how indigenous culture, language, lifestyle practices and traditions are intertwined with the environment. The experience working with and learning from local elders, healers, teachers, hunters, artisans, parents, and students has taught her to embrace the environment as part of the classroom. This experience has also inspired her to make the obvious connection in her lesson planning where she takes her students outdoors to learn in their natural and celebrated environment.

Rebecca began working with Natural Curiosity as a teaching resource two years ago. She instantly connected with the philosophy of environmental-inquiry education. She felt supported within the inquiry-based learning framework that inspired learning through the environment guided by students’ questions and theories. Rebecca and her students have explored local environments and learned about traditional knowledge and practices and how language and culture are connected to the environment. They also developed a deeper understanding of concepts connected to trees, plant life, animal life, water and habitats. Rebecca’s inquiry-based learning units have inspired local action and global citizenship.

Indigenous students have taught Rebecca that our environment is our classroom. Natural Curiosity has supported her by providing her the confidence as a teacher to find a pathway to bring learning outside where curriculum, cultures, and language are naturally connected to the environment.

Woodland Heights Public School

» 2016 Runner Up

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Woodland Heights Public School
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Woodland Heights is pleased to accept the 2016 Edward Burtynsky Runner-Up Award. Integrated eco-school club activities make it a green school. Green leaders are everywhere and Woodland Heights has earned 8 consecutive gold medals from Ontario Eco-schools.

This year, environmental inquiry was visible throughout the entire school and it was clearly evident with an initiative started by the Grade 7/8 class. It all started when they registered in a national contest called Student Action on Canadian Water Attitudes.

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Woodland Heights Public School

Woodland Heights is pleased to accept the 2016 Edward Burtynsky Runner-Up Award. Integrated eco-school club activities make it a green school. Green leaders are everywhere and Woodland Heights has earned 8 consecutive gold medals from Ontario Eco-schools.

This year, environmental inquiry was visible throughout the entire school and it was clearly evident with an initiative started by the Grade 7/8 class. It all started when they registered in a national contest called Student Action on Canadian Water Attitudes. Knowledge building circles quickly opened up many inquiries into the topic of water. “I Wonder” questions flowed from the students. One inquiry that the students had many questions about was the First Nation Metis and Inuit (FNMI) water advisories across our country. They became so passionate about the topic that they went to City Hall in London to ask questions and learn more about safe drinking water. The students learned that care for water is a shared global concern. They had a Google hangout with Severn Cullis-Suzuki! Also, Professor Taylor from the University of Western and three fourth-year biology students helped the Grade 7 and 8 students creatively design, build, and test STEAM maker projects like their innovative homemade safe drinking water filters. The result: student engagement.

What had started as an action project on how to reduce water consumption became more and more focused on the student’s questions and concerns about why the FNMI communities in Canada have water advisories. “Why are their taps off?” This is how the Taps OFF initiative was born. Natural curiosity led to action. The students increased local awareness about water advisories and conservation by creating and sharing hundreds of handmade Taps OFF! posters. The students created Taps OFF to remind Canadians that close to 20 per cent of First Nations communities are under a drinking water advisory, a stat that has remained remarkably consistent for the past 25 years.

It started as a successful initiative in the school but it soon gained momentum. The students asked for and were offered the support of Ontario EcoSchools to make Taps OFF a province wide program. The students then contacted the Safe Drinking Water Foundation and now Taps OFF will become a national program. The students at Woodland Heights Public School are excited to see how their initiative will continue to build more awareness about water conservation and the lack of safe drinking water in many FNMI communities. The “Taps Off” initiative has truly begun to build the student's understanding of the world through environmental inquiry.

Cathy Dykstra

» 2015 Grand Prize Winner

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Cathy Dykstra
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Two years ago, Cathy Dykstra made a dramatic switch to her grade 6 classroom. It became the home of the "Water Rockers". Thanks to a Y.S.A./State Farm of America grant to help get things off the ground, she and her students began to learn about water.

Their class motto is "ERIN: OUR LOCAL WATER ROCKS!" They learn about the water cycle and about world water issues and what countries are doing about them. They research about oceans and the impact that humans are having on ocean life. They investigate their local water supply. They learn about how much water it takes to make our food, clothing, and other items around us. They read facts about plastic water bottles and reusable bottles. They estimate how much water they use every day and they discover how to conserve water at school, at home, and in the community. The students have been so enthusiastic and engaged that water has taken over their reading, writing, math, science, and art activities. They also have local water "experts" come into their classroom, work with them in the school yard, and conduct experiments with them down by the local river.

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Cathy Dykstra

Two years ago, Cathy Dykstra made a dramatic switch to her grade 6 classroom. It became the home of the "Water Rockers". Thanks to a Y.S.A./State Farm of America grant to help get things off the ground, she and her students began to learn about water.

Their class motto is "ERIN: OUR LOCAL WATER ROCKS!" They learn about the water cycle and about world water issues and what countries are doing about them. They research about oceans and the impact that humans are having on ocean life. They investigate their local water supply. They learn about how much water it takes to make our food, clothing, and other items around us. They read facts about plastic water bottles and reusable bottles. They estimate how much water they use every day and they discover how to conserve water at school, at home, and in the community. The students have been so enthusiastic and engaged that water has taken over their reading, writing, math, science, and art activities. They also have local water “experts” come into their classroom, work with them in the school yard, and conduct experiments with them down by the local river.

In the school, they make daily morning announcements, put on presentations for other classrooms, post their research on bulletin boards and throughout the school, organize school assemblies, and write articles for the school online newsletter. Every student is assigned a leadership role. After two years, they have persuaded 90% of the staff and students at Erin P.S. to use reusable bottles every day.

Cathy has also partnered with the local BIA, with a group of parents from the school, and with the environmental leaders from "Transition Erin". Once a month, with their bright blue Water Rocker t-shirts and reusable bottles, she takes her class downtown to talk to the local store owners about their ongoing research, about water conservation, and about the importance of valuing customers who carry reusable bottles into their stores. Her students have persuaded 100% of the downtown stores to join the "Blue W" program.

In the community, her Water Rocker students write weekly newspaper articles for the local paper, and they make presentations at local Town Council meetings, at Transition Erin meetings, at church services, and at community events like Celebrate Erin. They have even been on the local radio. This has noticeably strengthened the school and community relationship and has given her students amazing experiences. Her class even organized a $5000 community fundraiser to help the Town Council install water bottle refilling stations in two of the local arenas.

Cathy just recently completed co-writing a Water Rockers curriculum document with Marc Mailhot to share with other schools and school boards. Her Water Rockers initiative has already spread to two other schools in the Orangeville area. She has helped to train other teachers in her board and in the States with a Y.S.A. Webinar about teaching through inquiry, across subjects, and organizing school/community initiatives. Last year, her Water Rockers program won $25,000 for her school in a Staples/Earth Day Canada contest.

Having a real life, student-directed, inquiry-based program full of leadership opportunities has thoroughly engaged her students and helped them to thrive as learners. The students have gained self-confidence and social skills such as public speaking, shaking hands, and making eye contact. They feel knowledgeable, capable, and valued by both the school and community.

As Cathy has discovered in her 23 years of teaching, it really is vital for all students of all ages to feel that they can have a positive impact on the world. By becoming compassionate, knowledgeable global citizens, her Water Rockers really are making a difference…...one drop of water at a time!

Jennifer Venalainen

» 2015 Runner Up

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Jennifer Venalainen
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Jennifer Venalainen is an elementary teacher currently teaching Grade 3/4 in the Toronto District School Board. She is passionate about place-based, environmental inquiry and believes that children can form strong relationships with nature even in a dense urban setting. Jennifer’s 8 years of teaching experience has demonstrated how learning outdoors stimulates a unique agency in young learners to pursue their own inquiry, and can make the curriculum more accessible for students with special needs or those learning English as a Second Language. These hands-on explorations are a continual source of inspiration for herself and her students, and have led to deep learning and profound stewardship opportunities. When students in her classroom adopted a tree in a local park, they learned about plants, habitats and communities, and extended their learning into measurement, poetry, and drawing. These formative experiences motivated a group of students to create a Leaf Club – to investigate and protect plants – and a Film Club, that created a documentary about trees for the UN World Environment Day Short Film Festival.

Jennifer is proud to be part of the vibrant school community at Charles G. Fraser P.S., which is a Gold-level Eco School in downtown Toronto. She enjoys working with the parents, students, and staff on a variety of school projects, including certifying their gardens as a Monarch Waystation. Her favourite things to do include: listening to birds, searching for butterfly eggs on milkweed, and talking to people about trees.

Joanne Arcand

» 2015 Runner Up

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Joanne Arcand
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My name is Joanne Arcand and I am very lucky to be teaching Grade 4 and 5 with the Halton District School Board. I graduated from the University of Guelph with a degree in Environmental Science and have used this multidisciplinary training to bring inquiry and science to most of the subjects I have taught over the past fifteen years. My teachers, administrators, and mentors at the Peel District School Board’s SciTech program and at Chris Hadfield School in Milton have given me the power to experiment with inquiry and student choice. Through their support, I have learned alongside the students. We have learned how to build robots from Lego, hovercrafts from leaf blowers, spaghetti bridges, basswood towers, and greeting cards, which light up. We have inflated drycleaner bags to create biodomes to live inside, raced six person boats made out of cardboard boxes, set geocaches out in the school grounds, published a hard cover fairy tale book, put on Shakespearian plays, and built aquaponic systems to keep the class fish alive and mazes for rescued rats. My students and I have trained mealworms, harvested silkworms, and created a community insect festival which brought together scientists from three universities, insect farmers, chefs, parents, and students in the celebration of our hexapodic friends. I don’t know where my students will take me every year, but it’s always a great story.

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Joanne Arcand

My name is Joanne Arcand and I am very lucky to be teaching Grade 4 and 5 with the Halton District School Board. I graduated from the University of Guelph with a degree in Environmental Science and have used this multidisciplinary training to bring inquiry and science to most of the subjects I have taught over the past fifteen years. My teachers, administrators, and mentors at the Peel District School Board’s SciTech program and at Chris Hadfield School in Milton have given me the power to experiment with inquiry and student choice. Through their support, I have learned alongside the students. We have learned how to build robots from Lego, hovercrafts from leaf blowers, spaghetti bridges, basswood towers, and greeting cards, which light up. We have inflated drycleaner bags to create biodomes to live inside, raced six person boats made out of cardboard boxes, set geocaches out in the school grounds, published a hard cover fairy tale book, put on Shakespearian plays, and built aquaponic systems to keep the class fish alive and mazes for rescued rats. My students and I have trained mealworms, harvested silkworms, and created a community insect festival which brought together scientists from three universities, insect farmers, chefs, parents, and students in the celebration of our hexapodic friends. I don’t know where my students will take me every year, but it’s always a great story.

My school is close to three woodlots which gives my students many opportunities to go outside and get closer to nature. We have had the opportunity to visit outdoor spaces on a weekly basis to write, conduct experiments, discuss the experiences of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples, and adopt a “sacred tree” to revisit during the seasons. The time to sit amongst the trees and listen to the life around them fosters their creativity and eases their daily stress. They notice more details, think more creatively and take more risks in their writing. I also try to bring natural spaces indoors through the use of small animals, plants, and terrariums with temporary guests found outside. Combined with the staff at the school and their commitment to maintaining platinum Ecoschool status, I hope the enduring understanding of respect for our natural world will grow in my students.

I don’t know what careers my students will find for themselves, but inquiry gives them the skills to adapt to the speed of change already observed in the world. We use one hour a week, called Genius Hour, to give the students the ability to follow their own inquiries. We call it “the power of ‘yet’” a saying which refers to the switch from “I don’t know how to do it” to “I don’t know how to do it YET.” We mentor each other and use iPads, books, Skype calls with experts, or just giving ourselves contemplative time in the woodlot and the space to conduct experiments to follow our inquiries. Whether it is performing a magic show, setting up pen pals with a senior’s home, coding a video game, caring for birds, or learning how to play an instrument I have been inspired alongside the students with the confidence “the power of yet” has given them.

Petra Eperjesi

» 2014 Grand Prize Winner

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Petra Eperjesi
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In the Spring of 2012, Petra Eperjesi watched a video about an Outdoor Kindergarten in Norway. She watched it again. It so stuck with her that in the Spring of 2012, when the Kindergarten program at her school, Tawingo College, in Huntsville, Ontario, was in flux, she pitched the idea that they should start an Outdoor Kindergarten program, and that she should dream it, design it, breathe life into it.

Now, in the Spring of 2014, Petra has led that program to the end of its second successful year. Her students have traipsed all over Tawingo’s 270 acres in rain, shine, sleet, and snow (and blackflies). They’ve mapped the shoreline, built a teepee, been stuck in bogs, climbed to the top of Eagle Mountain, shared stories in our tree house, jumped creeks, made nests…They are confident, resilient, compassionate, and deeply inquisitive, all because of the extensive time they spend outdoors in play and exploration. Petra models curiosity and stewardship for her young students, and is constantly seeking to improve her inquiry-based and child-centered teaching practice through reflection, collaboration, and voracious reading.

Follow her and her classes through their journeys in outdoor Kindergarten at http://www.petraeperjesi.com

Ann Butterworth

» 2014 Runner Up

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Ann Butterworth
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My name is Ann Butterworth. I have been a teacher with the Near North District School Board for 8 years. My interest in the environment comes from an honest place. I believe that when we are connected to the natural environment, we are happier and healthier. We gain perspective on the world around us and develop a deeper understanding of our roles and responsibilities. My passion for environmental stewardship has offered me many opportunities. In 2013 I was asked to be a Champion for my board in partnership with Nipissing University as a member of the Education for the Environment (E4E) pilot program, which is now wrapping up its second successful year. In addition, this year I have been a Lead Facilitator for an Outdoor Environmental Inquiry Initiative aimed at empowering NNDSB teachers to engage in environmental inquiry alongside their students. I believe that by fostering environmental inquiry through mentor/mentee relationships in our schools, more teachers will feel comfortable taking students outside. In my instructional practice, environmental inquiry has allowed me to reach students that struggle to shine in a traditional classroom environment. I have always been a person that would rather spend time outside than in. Through environmental inquiry I have found a way to inspire a younger generation to go outside with me! I embraced the opportunity to learn from, in and about the natural environment along side my students. Everyday, they amaze me with something new, different or exciting that they have discovered in our natural environment.

» 2013 Grand Prize Winner

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Olivier St-Hilaire & Kimberly Clark
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Teachers at Herb Campbell Public School in Caledon, Olivier St-Hilaire and Kimberly Clark, are exceptional teachers who infuse their practice with environmental and sustainability education - integrating nature and inquiry into their daily teaching. Co-founding the Herb Campbell Environmental Council, their goal was to share what they were doing and highlight all of the opportunities that could be found right in their own schoolyard. They strive, continually, to instill a deep respect and caring for the environment and to expose students to the learning that happens in a classroom without walls. Their environmental initiatives now include waste minimization, energy conservation, and ecological literacy. The largest focus is the school ground greening projects designed specifically for learning through direct contact with nature.

Marcia McVean

» 2013 Runner Up

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Marcia McVean
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In her fifteenth year of teaching, Marcia McVean has been integrating the natural world into her practice since her first experience teaching Anishinabe students in the north. After a wonderful time teaching outdoors and through the arts, Marcia then spent many years in an inner-city school in Scarborough. Marcia believes in the importance of working with children as though we are a part of nature, not studying it as something separate from us, and strives to cultivate a deep, life-long, compassionate relationship with out planet, developing and balancing intuition and intellect. For the past five years, Marcia has been part of Equinox Holistic Alternative School in the Toronto District School Board, a school designed to be a harbor for best innovative practices in environmental and outdoor education with a holistic approach. Marcia seeks to balance and integrate engagement, research, empowerment, and compassion when approaching topics of inquiry, ensuring that students have space for a wide range of responses. A dynamic and responsive teacher, Marcia incorporates mindfulness into her pedagogy, fostering compassion and gratitude in her students' connection to nature and a sense of belonging in our natural world. From trips to the Rouge Valley, to planting trees in Taylor Creek Park for species inventory, and exploring Ashbridges Bay Marcia is committed to connecting her students with the community and celebrating local environments. As she describes, "learning to love and connect to nature is the foundation to protecting it."

Michele Storrar

» 2013 Runner Up

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Michele Storrar
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Michele is a Grade 1 teacher at Sacred Heart Catholic School in the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board. Originally from Scotland, Michele has taught at Sacred Heart for over eighteen years and models a reflective and responsive teaching practice. Michele teaches in a way that begins with students' questions and allows freedom to explore and research a topic. One example: after a student asked about the sounds coming from the frogs in a nearby habitat, Michele led her students to investigate the type of frog, encouraged them to listen carefully to the frog's sounds, and connected this topic to strands in language, math, social studies, and science. Committed to providing experiential learning experiences for her students, Michele is often outside with her class, visiting the nearby Beaver Pond to study ecosystems, or checking on bird feeders outside the classroom. Michele infuses her teaching with how to care for the earth, and the value and power of efforts to conserve and be responsible citizens; this foundation of care leads to students' natural drive towards stewardship. By modeling active and critical thinking, Michele empowers her students to ask questions and explore solutions, linking their personal connection to nature with what they can do to better care for the earth.

Stephen Skoutajan

» 2012 Grand Prize Winner

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Stephen Skoutajan
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With a range of diverse teaching experience spanning twenty years, Stephen is an exemplary teacher who integrates inquiry-based learning and environmental issues with passion and insight. Stephen studied under David Sobel, focusing on using the outdoors as a resource to engage students, and also taught in international programs involving the integration of ecosystem study with curriculum areas. Stephen has also worked to integrate literacy programs with advocacy, supporting students' understanding that reading and writing are powerful tools and encouraging involvement in issues and debates. Combined with a deep commitment to environmental issues, Stephen is an outstanding role model for students in caring for our environment.

A teacher at Devonshire Community Public School in Ottawa, Ontario, Stephen is an active participant in their school ground greening project, which includes an organic garden and outdoor classroom and is now integrated with learning about local food sources and healthy eating. After Mr. Skoutajan's students built an herb spiral in their outdoor garden and established a composting and recycling program, they became interested in local food options and municipal waste and recycling programs. His students also explored issues of biodiversity along the Trans-Canada trail, investigating nearby marshes and interviewing locals (activists, farmers, educators) and provincial candidates, and connected this to their understanding of electoral issues.

Mike Bibby

» 2012 Runner Up

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Mike Bibby
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Mike Bibby is an Outdoor and Environmental Education Special Assignment Teacher for the Algonquin Lakes Catholic District School Board, developing and teaching the outdoor experiential education program at the Msgr. J.S. Ryan Centre Outdoor Education Centre on Wolfe Island, and also oversees programs at the H.R. Frink Outdoor Education Centre. Mike is a passionate outdoor enthusiast who strives to connect his students with issues that impact them and their environment. His students participate in the annual Sustainability Fair at their school, and have explored topics such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and organic farming, water systems and conservation, and First Nations' way of life. Mike is dedicated to integrated learning experiences, and strongly believes that all staff and students should be connected to the natural spaces around them. Supporting fellow teachers, and in collaboration with many schools, he is a passionate and stewardship-minded person who aspires to share his passion with others.

Monique Menard

» 2011 Grand Prize Winner

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Monique Menard
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Monique is a true champion of Environmental Education, and has worked tirelessly to establish and promote an eco-friendly culture within her school community - part of the Lakehead District School Board. Monique felt the need to connect students, their parents, and the broader community to a sustainable environmental project that would expose everyone to experiential learning. This community project was fulfilled through the building, growing and maintaining of a school garden that became a community undertaking. Every year, Monique uses the garden as a focal point to encourage inquiry-based learning from her Grade 5/6 class. They integrated the garden into their studies of math, science, and health.

Ms. Menard's class actively participates in many garden initiatives in the community, including preparing and cooking fresh rhubarb cake (made with rhubarb from the garden) for the school's family picnic. Monique inspires to develop in her students a deep understanding of food and food productions systems. On top of introducing her students to cooking with locally grown food, she also gave them the opportunity to explore local businesses and food production when she took them to a local flour mill and egg farm to obtain the ingredients they would need for their recipe.

Gail Blackman

» 2011 Runner Up

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Gail Blackman
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Gail Blackman is an inspirational Teacher and Librarian in the York Region District School Board. Her passions for Environmental Education is apparent, as she has applied for, and received, countless grants to support her schools environmental education needs. She was a key player in encouraging student involvement in helping design and create an outdoor classroom. Students were actively involved in all aspects of the project. They considered multiple design elements such as shade options, ground cover, and seating arrangement to make the classroom conducive to learning. The students specifically looked at how to make the outdoor classroom accessible for all students. Gail supports learning in the natural environment by supplying teachers with the materials they need to make teaching outside fun and easy! She is a fundamental part of promoting environmental initiatives in her school and is constantly generating enthusiasm in students and teachers to improve their own community and to participate in national and international efforts to improve the world we live in.

Jeanette McLellan

» 2011 Runner Up

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Jeanette McLellan
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Jeanette understands the importance of Environmental Education and has been working with students in her school, and other members of the York Region District School Board, to spread an environmentally conscious message to everyone. One of her main goals is to inspire students, through experiential learning and stewardship opportunities, to become responsible, environmentally conscious world citizens. Jeanette empowers students to make good environmental choices by supplying them with opportunities to participate in recycling and composting initiatives within the school and facilitates programs to lead and support the school's Zero Waste Initiative. Her determined efforts helped to facilitate the purchase of an OKIE machine for the school, which turns food scraps into compost overnight. With student help, Jeanette is planning to grow a sensor and herb garden with the compost they create.

» 2010 Grand Prize Winner

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Belfountain Public School
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Written by: Bryan Bibby-Smith, Janice Haines, & Lynn Bibby-Smith - How does vermi-composting, invasive insect species, and the scientific method become a meaningful learning experience for a class? It all began with a bin full of worms. Three years ago, the students and staff at the Belfountain Public School, nestled away in the hills of Caledon, Ontario, initiated a vermi-composting program. It was just another slice that makes up the whole of their E.C.O. school program (Environmental, Conservation and Outdoor Education). The worm castings, or worm poop produced was great for the school's gardens, but could it translate into a grade on a report card? That question lead the teachers to look at their curriculum not in terms of units, with clearly defined beginnings and ends, but rather from an inquiry-based approach. It all starts with a question. The school gardens are thriving and the worms are happily composting, now what do we do with all of this worm poo? The grade four class took the lead. They researched its benefits, problem-solved how best to prepare and package it, corroborated with the School Community Council to promote it and finally used marketing skills to sell it as a school fund-raiser, collecting money for a schoolyard greening project. And all of their hard work was assessed and recorded by their teacher. Wanting to include members of this close-knit community in the decision-making process for the schoolyard planning, partnerships were struck with the school community council, the CVC (Credit Valley Conservation), the Ontario Stream Organisation, and the Ministry of Natural Resources.

David Barnes

» 2010 Runner Up

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David Barnes
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Written by David Barnes "It all began one spring morning when my grade two teacher decided it was time to go outside for a walk around the schoolyard. We trudged outside all the way to the middle of the field and then sat in a circle around our teacher. Mr. Barnes smiled at us and said, "I've got a very important task for all of you this morning. Your job is to find as many different kinds of living things as you can. Search everywhere, on tree trunks, under stones, on leaves, in the grass and underground. The most important thing to remember is to always be gentle with what you catch. All living things are to stay living and all will be set free at the end of the day. I hope no one is afraid of getting their hands dirty!" - Excerpt from My School is Alive! (Barnes, 2001) Based on my personal experience, My School is Alive! is a children's book that tells the true story of how the creation of a garden changed a fundamental way of thinking throughout one elementary school. Narrated by Sara, a grade two student, the story follows a school's journey of cross-curricular explorations and discoveries using the garden's living elements. I authored and illustrated this book as a tool to help teachers create learning experiences that lead to student growth in eco-literacy. Just how well prepared will our children be? The term "eco-literate" is often used to describe people who understand and care about the environment. My School is Alive! presents a practical example of eco-literate teaching and learning at work, and is based on a specific criteria that I have created to build and assess eco-literacy in my students called KAFA.

Tawnya Schlosser

» 2010 Runner Up

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Tawnya Schlosser
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Written by: Tawnya Schlosser - In my present school I am known as the "creature teacher" because of my love of animals and the fact that we have live creatures in our classroom. I have always tried to ensure that the students in my class learn in an inquisitive, hands-on way, and I love to do learning outside as much as possible. Five years ago I joined the Monarch Teacher Network where I gained the skills to bring the environment into my classroom in a deeper and more meaningful way. This is where my specific work in Environmental Education really took off. Every year, on the first day of school, I have monarch caterpillars and chrysalides placed around the classroom. When the children walk in they are quick to start asking questions about what they see. They are fascinated with which end of the caterpillar is the head and which is the tail, and how I put the "glitter" on the chrysalis. The best part of that first day is when a Monarch butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. You could hear a pin drop as the students stare in rapt excitement watching this new life begin! We also have different kinds of milkweed, magnifying glasses and microscopes accessible to allow students to make detailed observations. Everyone has a journal that they can record their observations, measurements and questions, and I model using this journal myself. The first week of school my students are also introduced to the school's butterfly garden, which our class cares for throughout the year. As the boys and girls smell, touch and study the plants that are growing, they get to ask more questions and work together to try and find the answers. Once the students recognize the features of milkweed plants, we spend some time at the back of the schoolyard identifying and checking milkweed for eggs and caterpillars. This helps students to have the skills to recognize and hopefully preserve milkweed at their own homes and in the community.