In partnership with Maple Ridge School District and community partners the research project seeks to build and study an alternative model of environmental education; a model that is grounded in place-based, ecological, and imaginative education principles.
At the heart of the research is the question of whether education and sustainability can be brought into closer alignment with one another – not just at the level of policy but in terms of the actual, daily relationship between schools and the communities and natural systems in which they are situated. By necessity this research is a long-term and collaborative endeavour and addresses issues of curriculum, pedagogy, school administration, school-community relationships, teacher development, and the building of a community of practice. Perhaps most fundamentally the project addresses the issue of complex shifts in learning outcomes. A child’s understanding of history, geography, science, math, and language may look quite different, on the basis of a range of assessment methods and criteria, if it is tightly interwoven with knowledge of local communities and natural systems. Such shifts clearly need to be researched if ecological, place-based education is to have meaningful and significant influence on the wider education system.
We expect to build a substantial knowledge base in education for sustainability that will influence teaching, learning, and school administration throughout the district. It will also yield a detailed picture of an alternative model of environmental education that could be of immediate practical value for municipalities and districts across Canada (and other countries). Finally, it will make a unique contribution to the scholarship on place-based ecological education, introducing new theoretical ideas in a context of community-based practice.
Conceived as a collaborative undertaking, we aim to blur traditional boundaries of who or what a researcher is. Although the team of researchers from Simon Fraser University have a specific research remit, all members of the community will have the opportunity and be encouraged to actively participate in researching the learning journey of the school.
Throughout the project the research process and findings will be communicated to the learning community itself (students, parents, teachers, educational assistants, and community partners) and also to organizations, policymakers, and researchers at provincial and national levels.