SYC partners in the newly launched Sustainability and Education Policy Network

Professor Marcia McKenzieMarcia McKenzie, from the University of Saskatchewan Department of Educational Foundations and School of Environment and Sustainability, leads a $3 million initiative called the Sustainability and Education Policy Network (SEPN). The network is exploring new models to improve how environmental sustainability is taught and practiced in schools, universities, and other educational institutions.

“Climate change, new environmental technologies, energy and water sustainability are not solely technical issues,” McKenzie says. “They are also cultural and political challenges. To respond to these challenges, we need integrated solutions that depend on and assume a citizenry that is both informed and motivated.”

Although environmental issues are often prominent in the news and public discourse, there is little knowledge about how these issues are being taught and lived, and what policies are driving the lessons. Part of the challenge is the number of players involved – everyone from provincial governments and their ministries, to school boards, university administrations, and even not-for-profit environmental groups – many of whose efforts are uncoordinated with the others.

To address this, SEPN academic partners include York University and Lakehead University, and organizational partners include the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the David Suzuki Foundation, Learning for a Sustainable Future, and the Sierra Youth Coalition. Six other groups are contributing to the project: the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Office, the Sustainability Solutions Group, the Global Youth Education Network, Ecosource, and the Canadian Federation of Students.

SEPN will begin by analyzing existing policy concerned with environmental sustainability in provincial ministries of education, federal First Nations’ school administration, and post-secondary institutions. From there, the researchers will conduct community-based site analyses to see how these policies are experienced in the classroom, in how organizations conduct their operations, and by the broader community. With this knowledge in hand, the network plans to develop a set of best practices and policies to engage decision-makers in furthering environmental sustainability efforts across the country through education.

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