Alberta Council for Environmental Education
Our Story Why We Exist
The need for environmental education has grown to the point where it must become mainstream learning for children, youth and educators. Why? Three reasons:
- Children spend less time outside and more time indoors in front of screens.
- We have an responsibility to learn to live sustainably, to enjoy and steward Alberta's wonderful natural resources, and prepare future generations to do the same.
- There are few resources to help Albertans develop a passion and learn the skills to protect our planet, even in curriculum.
"About 12 years ago, when I was working at an outdoor centre, Miles - one of those grade six students you never forget - approached me and asked if I wanted to hear an environmental joke. Being a willing victim for children's humour, I said sure. Miles sad, "Knock, knock," and I responded predictably, "Who's there?" At this point, Miles simply turned around and walked away. I stood there searching for the meaning of this joke. I later caught up with him and asked him to explain the joke. He said simply, "That's it. Nobody's there. The environment has been destroyed." That year I discovered an alarming pessimism and sense of helplessness regarding the future of the earth among his fellow students. What Miles needed was to become more environmentally literate." ~ Jeff Reading, ACEE Board member
"When it comes to climate change, the antidote to despair is action." ~ Leah Buchanan, student at Queen Elizabeth High School, and former Chair of ACEE's Alberta Climate Leadership Youth Network
Our Impact What We Do
As a leader in environmental education, ACEE works at a systems level to reform K-12 education curriculum and bring environmental education into the mainstream; at the grassroots level by guiding children and youth to become environmental leaders in Alberta; and every level in between through its partnerships and professional development for educators.
We currently have a superb opportunity to advance environmental education in the new K-12 Alberta curriculum. The last time this opportunity existed was 20 years ago. At that time, our Executive Director Gareth Thomson successfully worked with Education staff to add a wetlands unit to the fifth grade curriculum; since that time almost 1 million Alberta youth have gone through that unit to experientially understand and appreciate the complex nature of the wetland ecosystem.
Now, we’re working to infuse environmental, energy, and climate change education in to multiple subject areas. Working in collaboration with Alberta Education, ACEE will positively impact the new curriculum development. Education Minister David Eggen paralleled ACEE's hope and direction in his keynote address at the Edmonton area Education on Planet Earth conference by saying "We cannot look at environmentalism the same way that we have for the last 20 years. We’ve moved a long ways to evolve and to make sure it is not a separate subject but it is infused in all subject areas all the time, through mathematics, physics, chemistry, social studies, economics and career and life management… to connect ourselves with our natural climate and to connect ourselves with a more diversified economy.”
ACEE's accomplishments in guiding children and youth to become environmental leaders are really their accomplishments. We are proud of our students - and excited that our work with them is making a difference! In early 2016, we engaged with Alberta youth who created “How Alberta Schools should show Climate Leadership”, a set of recommendations for leaders capturing the knowledge, opinions, and passion of over 3000 students. Premier Rachel Notley met with our students and on June 7, 2016 students presented their recommendations to the Ministers of Education and Environment & Parks. The students' work figured prominently in the October 26, 2016 announcement of nine million dollars to ensure that new schools will all have solar panels: "The recommendation of the solar panels actually came from students themselves with the work that Gareth Thomson and The Alberta Council of Environmental Education has been doing. We took their suggestions from the white paper and put them to action. We had the chance to meet with some of the brilliant young people behind that work this spring, myself and Shannon Phillips, and we are following through on more of their recommendations in the months ahead." ~Education Minister David Eggen
ACEE is well respected in the environmental education community and is especially known for its partnerships and professional development. Through conferences, workshops, celebration events and reconnection retreats ACEE convenes groups to learn from each other and create cooperative synergies together. Educators have come to rely on ACEE's monthly newsletter and professional development to help them bring environmental education and sustainability into the classroom. Here are a few teachers’ testimonials:
- "You do so many wonderful projects and programs - I always look forward to your emails with all the great initiatives, workshops, and ways we can help our kids help the world! Our Eco Club was the direct result of what I learned at your Canmore Earth Matters Conference!!” " ~L. Margetak
- “The talk [keynote] by the students really furthered my passion for teaching environmental education, as I saw the massive impact that the students' learning experiences had on them.” ~Unknown
- “Always great to see so many change makers under one roof” ~Unknown
- “The conference has helped me understand how to discuss and bring environmental concepts into my classroom in an engaging way.” ~Simon Stenseth
Our Programs How We Do It
We believe that the health and wellness of Albertans relies on a healthy environment. We promote environmental education so that Albertans will understand the interconnections between the environment, economy, and society - and develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours to create a sustainable future.
We offer the following programs and resources to help advance environmental education in Alberta:
Propose new curriculum for our 700,000 students. To build a prosperous and sustainable future for our province, we need to provide the students in K-12 schools in Alberta with new curriculum that will dramatically increase their energy environmental, and climate literacy. We’ve created ‘Curriculum for a Sustainable Future,’ which outlines key concepts and student learning outcomes for science, social studies and wellness that are needed for students to be energy and environmentally literate, and identifies teaching and learning resources and assessment techniques for teachers. This document is a key tool in our onging work with Alberta Education.
Engage youth around how ‘Alberta Schools can show Climate Leadership (Year Two).’ In 2016 we worked with over 3000 Alberta high school students on this topic. They presented their findings to the Education and Environment and Parks Ministers in June. This year the youth will speak to Alberta’s educational leadership at provincial and regional meetings, and work with them to help identify and take the next step towards climate leadership.
Get Outside and Play Network. ACEE leads the Get Outside and Play network, which focuses on getting preschool children outdoors to enjoy and appreciate nature. There are now 600 members in the network from sectors such as health care, environmental education, play, sport, recreation and parks, child care, and early childhood development. Network activities include resource sharing, webinars, events and workshops.
Get Outside and Play Week. At the end of May, ACEE organizes an annual Alberta-wide celebration of outdoor nature play. Childcare centres, families and communities use this week to jumpstart active outdoor nature play through direct, hands-on experiences and sharing inspirational stories that support the value of active outdoor nature play in the early years, with events taking place across the province in parks, childcare centres and backyards! Participants register their activity through getoutsideandplay.ca to receive resources, inspiration and ideas to help them incorporate outdoor nature play into daily life.
Develop and deliver Energy Efficiency Education. Through a joint venture with Greenlearning.ca, we’re developing a new hands-on energy efficiency education program for junior and senior high school students, using new circuit meter technology that ‘makes energy visible.’ This program epitomizes excellent education: students increase their energy and environmental literacy, learn experientially through their project work and reporting to school decision-makers, take action, reduce greenhouse gases, and help schools reduce their utility bill and carbon levy payments!
Help Alberta’s educational leaders ‘Take the Next Step’ towards climate leadership. We’ll help board trustees and superintendents from Alberta’s seventy-plus school boards ‘take the next step’ when it comes to advancing both student learning and school infrastructure. In partnership with Alberta Education, the Alberta School Boards Association, and the College of Alberta School Superintendents, we’ll build a workshop series and a Climate Leadership Clearinghouse and Knowledge Centre to engage these education leaders and support their work, culminating in a 2018 Summit.
Enhancing Student Voice through Climate Change Education. We’re working with the Environmental Law Centre on this program to help students understand the complexities around climate change and engage in project-based action.
Alberta Green Schools. This program creates a culture of energy literacy and environmental stewardship in Alberta schools. We help teachers connect to quality learning resources as they create a school-wide culture of environmental stewardship and celebrate students’ green accomplishments!
For more information on ACEE's additional programs and resources, go to: www.abcee.org
Our Requests What You Can Do
ACEE connects youth to nature, unleashing their potential and encouraging action to steward the environment. There are almost 1 million youth in Alberta. This is the future. ACEE works to increase their environmental, energy and climate literacy, and help them develop the skills they need to care for the planet we all share. But we can't do it alone.
You can help advance environmental education by donating to ACEE:
Every donation, no matter what the size, makes a big difference!
ACEE works closely with businesses who share our vision to advance environmental education in Alberta.
Additionally, you can sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to learn more about ACEE and receive tons of environmental education resources.
“In my experience, ACEE provides valuable resources and services to the environmental education community in Alberta. ACEE is a professional organization that helps improve environmental education programs across the province.”
~ Krista Tremblett, Alberta Environment