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An Assignment to Save the World (only less dramatic)

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AN ASSIGNMENT TO SAVE THE WORLD (ONLY LESS DRAMATIC) An Action Research Project to Understand Youth Disengagement in Environmental Education

C. Nina Pagtakhan 93301-5778

Education 904: Fieldwork III SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY Faculty of Education April 10, 2011

An Assignment to Save the World (only less dramatic) ON THE WINDOW SILL OF MY CLASSROOM

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Its Friday afternoon in room 308 of the Social Studies domain. Students enter; put their books or bags down and some move to the shelf where their journals are kept while others look in on their plant projects. We all seem to chat with each other informally. Friday is like that. We feel the sense of release because the week is coming to a close. Ben normally gets to the watering can first, waters his spider plant and then checks in on the others. He doesnt necessarily know who they belong to; he just does his rounds, looking in on who might need a drink. Kiyans plant died before the winter and he asked that he not get assigned another one. He still goes to the window sill though, checking in on Courage, Steadfastness, Kenwood, Ainsley and all the others whose names are now hidden by leaves. Some have been named after heroic qualities as a result of our World War II unit in November; while others have kept their first names chosen by their caretakers back September. Kiyan takes over the watering can so Ben can grab his journal. I greet them by turning up the volume of the instrumental tracks I have playing and its time to begin.

I raise the screen to reveal the journaling prompt for the day. Some start right away, others need some clarification about length or other inconsequentials like todays date. Clarification questions usually result in some kind of discussion. They seem to want to explain aloud just so they feel comfortable about their own thoughts.

Theres someone who asks why were journaling less about our plants progress as metaphors for the topics we are learning and more about our feelings about the stuff were learning. I give my stock answer but then re-word when I see some perplexed faces. I couldnt expect you to value your plant or the environment, Leah, when you were still trying to establish what your own values were. Your plant

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was supposed to be a metaphor for caring for the environment and although you do water and prune it on Fridays, I doubt you think any more about it than that. I think this was partly my fault for how Ive scheduled things; the routine of journaling and watering was effective in that their plants were well looked after, but I doubted I was doing much to change their personal feelings about environmental stewardship. Leah looks at me, suppresses a giggle and asks, So you want me to think of my plant every day? Are you turning crazy, Ms. Pagtakhan? Youre starting to sound like one of those people. You know like those people. Leah pauses a moment and smiles warmly, probably checking to see if shes offended me. Thats okay, Ill still look after my plant and journal and stuff. I thank Leah for her participation and tell her that, at least in the interim, Id like to learn more about what she personally values and what values she derives from the topics we learn in class. The plant can be an onlooker of those discussions in the meantime. They look all at me thoughtfully, confusedly, but continue writing on the days journal prompt.

DEFINING THE STUDY AND ITS CONTEXT CONTEXT Collingwood School is a K-12 school which uses traditional educational teaching approaches; this involves direct instruction, seatwork and students learning through listening and observation. The instruction is based on textbooks, lectures, with both individual and group assignments and tests as evaluations. Subjects are taught independently from each other although some attempts at crosscurricular planning and teaching happen at the primary and middle school levels. At the senior level (where this study is drawn from), however, all subjects are taught by subject area specialists in isolation from other disciplines.

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Collingwood School is also an independent, co-educational day school which is located in West Vancouvers British Properties, one the wealthiest municipalities in Canada. West Vancouver has the highest average income per household of any city in Canada as of 2011 with a large portion of the population involved in senior management positions in one of finance, professional science and technical services, or retail trade (West Vancouver School District, 2011). In many cases parents are not only community leaders but also stake holders in the economy. Students who attend Collingwood do so because it boasts a high university acceptance rate in ivy-league schools and other prestigious institutions both in North America and abroad (Hazel, Susan 2012). Collingwood has a reputation for high academic achievement but this is only one of its four pillars where students are encouraged to excel. The other three are: Service, Athletics and Arts Education where credit hours are required in all areas for graduation. By all counts, a traditional education, one that Collingwood is modeled after would translate into an effective way of educating students. According to the latest report by the Fraser Institute, Collingwood earned a score of 9.2 out of 10 on their last report card and ranked 10th out of 256 schools in BC (Fraser Institute, 2011). This means our students perform extremely well on provincial exams and other standardized tests (like the Fundamental Skills Assessment) but the Fraser Institute reflects solely on the academic achievement of these schools.

The methodology for this research project is a response to both the demographic and the philosophy of the school making academics priority one. Provincial exams, whether they are worth 20% or 40% affect Fraser Institute standings which in turn affect enrollment. Because Collingwood is an independent school, government funding for operational costs are limited to 20% (Ministry of Education, 2006) and the remainder is shouldered by its families, more specifically those enrolled, with some contributions from outside donors. It follows then that a robust enrollment is key to keeping Collingwoods doors

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open. Its main draw, as with many private schools, is small class size allowing for individualized attention. That attention would then lend itself to high academic achievement and a wider range of opportunities for post-secondary education. DEVELOPMENT OF THE ISSUES RELATED RESEARCH The Fraser Institute does not tell what kind of people our students will become although high academic standings can allow for some inferences on the matter of professional careers. Given our clientele, our students likely enter into the same fields or become entrepreneurs as their parents. But this also begs the question of what kind of people our students turn out to be. If the purpose of education is to give students the means for upward mobility and success (Orr, 1996), then I have achieved that before I even began. Given that the average income of parents is $160,000 (Fraser Institute, 2011) our students are already the most upwardly mobile people in the country. But does this mean that they are kinder, more globally responsible, more connected to their communities or more action-oriented people?

I would argue from the journal entries and classroom discussion generated from this study that they are not. They are no different from any other student in British Columbia in that they are just as ambivalent about global issues, dangerously apathetic and inaction-oriented as any other adolescent. Many students from traditional educational systems have the opportunity to be successful, optimistic, and informed, but to what extent? My findings have shown me that, many of my students are detached and overconfident with respect to environmental issues an unsettling conclusion given they are destined to inherit the wealth and position of their parents. If that is true they will continue to exploit the planet and address ecological issues on an ad hoc basis. With wealth and science, comes a certain degree of arrogance. Things that are broken can be fixed or purchased again. Science solves all when we fund it.

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And there is this assumption that someone will. We are intelligent enough to do this. We are humans and the epitome of ingenuity and innovation (Orr on the Myth of Education, 1996). Traditional education has contributed to the disengagement of youth and continues to taut progress as the main goal of education. The dangers of that are found in work of ecological educators like David Orr and Chet Bowers. For David Orr, traditional education has perpetuated six myths in education. These are the following:

1) ignorance is a solvable problem. Ignorance is not a solvable problem, but rather an inescapable 2) 3) 4) 5) 6)
part of the human condition with enough knowledge and technology we can manage planet Earth that knowledge is increasing and by implication human goodness we can adequately restore that which we have dismantled the purpose of education is that of giving you the means for upward mobility and success our culture represents the pinnacle of human achievement
(Orr, 1996)

These myths mistaken as truths disconnect students from the environment because too much emphasis is put on knowledge acquisition assuming that intelligence will solve any ecological crisis. Education becomes a means-ends game without creating any deep personal understandings of how students can use knowledge for the improvement and preservation of the communities they belong to. Students care less about how to be responsible to the earth, and more about advancing its people while disregarding that the two must work in partnership. Only when these six myths are dispelled and the meaning of education re-invented, can we expect to truly ecologically educate our students.

For Chet Bowers, the crux of the problem is this --designing effective environmental education programs (EE) that alter negative behaviours and mindsets. But that too, requires radical shifts in pedagogy. Bowers work unravels the tragedy of the double bind which inhibits new ways of fostering ecologically

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aware students. Bowers feels that the lens from which curriculum writers operate is already flawed; it is an economically-driven monetized lens of the Western world that disables our ability to see the problems created by that same world (Bowers, 2006, 401). As cultures enclose concepts surrounding EE, positive or negative associations with those concepts recapitulate themselves generation after generation. Whatever these associations are becomes common of that concept. Bowers believes there is a unique commons of Western education that results in real challenges in designing effective EE programs that actually alter mindsets of people. For him, much of the problem of ecological education lies in the language used by current educators. To him, the language is laced in bias, with value-laden terms which carry a history of assumptions. Powerful and important ideas like global warming, pollution, and save the rainforest, (ideas that used to carry weight) now have become clich and boring. These act to undermine the importance of creating a new eco-educational commons. Bowers also goes into a discussion on the impact of teaching subjects in isolation. He states that current EE methods are taught without cross-curricular considerations, in compartmentalized segments in our curriculum. As such it begets a surface understanding of the core concepts and denies the student an understanding of the relationship the earth has in everything they study.

Both Bowers and Orrs work have helped me understand of what is happening in my classroom. The culture of progress, enclosed with methods and language that perpetuate student apathy, all work against changing negative attitudes about EE. These factors, combined with a means-end approach to curriculum makes ecological education seem very irrelevant if human knowledge can sidestep any environmental time bomb. It would seem then that a new educational paradigm would have to be written to show both the limitations of progress as well as the intrinsic value of the nature around us.

An Assignment to Save the World (only less dramatic) MY PERSPECTIVE, ISSUES, PURPOSE, METHOD HOW THE JOURNEY BEGAN

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In an attempt to make environmental stewardship an ongoing topic in Social Studies 11, two blocks of students (a total of 27) were charged with one small task in September care for a plant until the end of the school year. Their plants were spliced from one of three larger (and quite overgrown) spider plants purchased from Home Depot before the school year began. Id done this kind of project before but with flowering plants and given the rather sunless classroom and complicated demands of flowering plants, Id made the decision to switch to a more resilient species this year. After bearing witness to many plant casualties, the students felt a great sense of defeat and I worried about the message I was sending about environmental stewardship that it was an all or nothing type of affair where conditions had to be exactly so if the human world were to coexist with the natural one. If a plant did not have those conditions the relationship would fail. This isnt a personal belief or the message I wished to send.

Surviving September 2011 proved to be the most challenging. Students had to do some internet research on what care for a spider plant would look like. They also had to bring a pot from home to transplant their baby from the temporary plastic cup of week one to something that could sustain itself until June 2012. Teenagers have a difficult time remembering their homework, pens, permission slips for field trips and the like. Bringing a pot to school was no different. It took three weeks of steady reminders until almost all had a suitable pot of their own. Students were set up with very basic guidelines that could be modified as the situation presented itself; they knew that care and maintenance were to be done outside of class time and were encouraged to seek the help of someone else if they knew they would be absent for an extended period of time. By early October they had gotten into the routine of watering, pruning and rotating their pots to allow equal access to sunlight. If

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their plant met an untimely death, we would simply splice from the main plant again, have a discussion of dos and donts, and try again. On Fridays, the weeks topics would make some connection back to their plant. For instance, for the week in November where we studied the battles of World War II, I labeled each plant with a heroic quality and asked students to water a plant (and inadvertently a quality) that a soldier would have had to possess to endure the front lines. Then, I asked them to write about how their plants existence related to some aspect of that quality.

Overall, it turned out that these plants needed very little from my students watering and a weekly journal entry connecting curricular content to their plant. Its become quite a natural start to Fridays classes, embedded in the days routine. To date, it seems that Ive only had four real casualties which were mostly due to a poor school attendance records. The classroom is incredibly green looking and after both winter and spring breaks, the original plants that I had spliced to give to individual students needed splicing two additional times because of overgrowth. Eight new trays of 16 spider plants each were given to colleagues and friends because the classroom simply ran out of space. Its too bad I dont teach multiplication.

The journal entries of my students tell me that they get it. They get that the environment is at risk and what has to be done at all levels of society to reverse the damage and protect the earth. Theyve heard the message in classrooms and on TV so we, as educators can all breathe a sigh of relief that the system isnt a failure. Sarah does her best she does the 3 Rs, like many of my students who wrote the same thing on the initial EE survey. Generally speaking, my students have a solid awareness of environmental issues and they know their role in changing the course of the future. They turn off the lights when not in use, bring re-usable containers to carry their lunches, opt for the recycling bin before a trash bin, etc

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But as I read through the journal entries and notes of the discussions in class, their environmentally aware actions are too routine and mechanical, quite like how their responsibility to their plant had become. What their writing also reveals is that those actions are not an indication of any personal loyalty they have for the environment. Theyve simply emerged out of habit and are largely unemotional, unconcerned, and on some level detached from the plant they care for. The plant project itself became quite a fitting metaphor of their real perceptions on environmental stewardship. THE ISSUE Although the education system has been successful at educating students on various environmental challenges, it has shortcomings in actually changing mindsets of individuals. The environmental awareness survey (Appendix B) distributed at the beginning of the research and the individual journal entries substantiate this reality. Too many of them have written I do it, but I dont care or Im not wasteful; I turn the lights off and dont run the car, but I dont care about the environment. These actions indicate some accomplishments in the area of creating more environmentally considerate behaviours but a significant limitation glares back at us. Students do, but do not feel any allegiance to the earth they are doing it for. The educational theorist, Lev Vygotsky and other social constructivists would argue that we are not educated on a matter until it becomes part of who we are (N. Gajdamaschko, personal communication, October 28, 2011). Dont we want our students actions to be purposeful, reflections of what they believe? Dont we want our students to live with intention and perform actions that reflect their values? PURPOSE This report isnt a doomsday report. In only seeks to shine a light on one teachers practice, specifically mine, and address my shortsightedness that may have contributed to students already apathetic attitude toward EE. What the action research has illuminated are two limitations in my own curricular

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planning (or over-planning) that can negatively impact EE for my students. In the process of doing the study I have been able to narrow these shortcomings into 2 categories: 1) rigidity of teacher practice and 2) the value-education factor. Both will be addressed more deeply in the Assertions section of this report. For now, the sole purpose of the study as outlined in the proposal was to better identify and address the roots to student apathy over EE. By employing Kieran Egans tools of imaginative engagement, from his wider educational theory of Imaginative Education (IE), and the experiential learning cycle found in The Environmental Learning & Experience Curriculum Maps (Ministry of Education, 2009), the activities designed were intended to involve students in deeper dialogue about the subject and from that, learn where their disengagement with the topic lies. Both became effective tools in helping me identify areas for improvement in my own practice of providing a powerful and meaningful ecological education. METHODS The methodology is largely the result of the kind of course I teach and the demographic I teach to. Social Studies 11 is a survey course with a provincial exam attached to it in June. Although the exam is only worth 20% of the students grade, it is deemed a valuable indicator of students knowledge acquisition by parents and administrators of Collingwood School. That being said, the dissemination of that knowledge happens quickly despite the fact that the course covers very complex domestic and international issues from 1914 to present day. Where History 12 might allot one month for World War I, Socials 11 may limit the unit to two weeks. And where History 12 might focus on World War I from a European perspective, Socials 11 will do both the European and Canadian (and yes, over the same two weeks). For these reasons my action research project and design does not have a complete environmental issues focus. Not only is there a time crunch associated with the course, Social Studies 11 is mostly a Canadian and European history and social issues course. By mostly, I mean, one third of

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the curricular content. The other third consists of Canadian politics and government structure. Human Geography, the unit where EE would typically fall into, consists of the last third. The British Columbia Integrated Resource Package for Social Studies 11 is provided in this report for further details of the curricular scheme (Appendix G).

In attempting to work with these parameters, the research design involved infusing EE topics within the regular curriculum and daily lessons in order to create more of a mindfulness of the environment and its connections to the other things we learn in the course. Students would not only learn about the war in Afghanistan as a clash of geopolitical forces, but also as a conflict between humans and the environment. Those class discussions would be probed and recorded in my daily field journal (Appendix E). The full research design with the schedule of implementation and data collection is found in Appendix A although a brief snapshot of it is provided in figure 1. Before these discussions occurred students participated in an initial EE survey (a portion of which is captured in figure 2) which aimed to identify their level of environmental engagement (Appendix B). This was done to establish a baseline of what their attitude was before the study began in order to make comparisons at a later date. However, due to the limited scope and surprising shift towards value education, a comparison of before and after attitudes of environmental engagement became less relevant to this project. The five week study period was aimed only at identifying and addressing student apathy over EE and I did not expect to see any behavioural shifts resulting possibly from an increased environmental consciousness. Along with classroom discussions and interviews with students, students were given a journaling prompt on Fridays which asked them to reflect on some aspect of the curricular topic, from the lens of the natural world. Prompts took the form of images, vignettes or news articles of human impacts on the natural environment. Prompts were later altered from the ones listed in Appendix A when the notion of values

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presented a greater challenge for students. The initial research design also included an observation of students outside of the classroom in an attempt to find out how environmentally responsible or irresponsible behavior played out in the school community, more specifically the cafeteria. But again, as values education took a larger role in the action research, it became more necessary to engage students in classroom discussions about their beliefs in order to open future discussion on their beliefs on environmental responsibility. In addition to these methods, I have spoken with various teachers who have observed my students and have taught Socials 11. They have described some of their own challenges and views on EE as it is presented in this course. These are included as reflections in my daily field journal. Overall the sample used for this action research consists of two classes of Social Studies 11 students, a total of 27 students. Since school policy caps class-sizes at 20, block A contains 18 students while block E has 9. Of those 27, 6 have either an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Psycho-Educational Assessment and all 6 are students of block A, mostly due to the scheduling of their support teachers. The remaining three blocks of Socials 11, totaling 75 students were taught by other teachers who typically address Human Geography (and EE) at the end of May. Because Collingwood Senior School follows a 5-day block rotation schedule, A or E block classes can fall at either the morning or the afternoon. For both of my A and E blocks, however, student-journaling took place on Fridays as either the second to last class or last class of the day.

An Assignment to Save the World (only less dramatic)

WEE K Feb 14, 15 & 17 CURRICULAR TOPICS Curricular Topic: The Changing Social Landscape of the Post War Period Topics include: Immigration & Baby Boom Urbanization (& Automobile Era) Consumerism Growth of Canadas industrial sector Counter culture movements/s ocial activism of the 60s & 70s INFUSING OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION INTO CURRICULAR TOPICS Questions for class discussions or for pausing and reflecting: 1. 2. What do we think is happening to the Canadian Landscape? As we increase consumption and resource development, what has happened to the environment? Was this inevitable? Your textbook states that it was only in the 60s that the word pollution became a topic of discussion. Why do you think it took that long even though the visual evidence (smog, excavation sites etc) was glaring? Lets look at our textbook. What percentage of Ch 6 Canada in the Post War World is about political issues? On economic? Social? Environmental? Why do you think this is so? Is there a message we are implicitly being told? What is the message? Consider again the pictures of the post war period in your textbook (Elvis on p.168, a red convertible, p. 170 pictures of suburban family p. 171-173? Notice even when theres a paragraph on consumption (p. 173 and p. 187) when they discuss some dangerous environmental impacts, there is no photo of those impacts. Instead they provide you with photo of the trans-Canada highway at its completion in between green space. Is there a message? Is this intentional? SUMMATIVE (FRIDAY) JOURNAL PROMPT Journal Prompt: Students are show a compilation of photos of their Counterpoints textbook (Ch 6) of suburbanization, urbanization and industrialization on the left & photos of the same concepts on the right (only looking at it from how the environment has been impacted). The Prompt: Look at the following photos and their captions. Notice that the photos on the left are from your textbook and the ones on the right are the same topic but from the perspective of how it has altered the natural landscape. So, how would the stories of the post war period change if they were told from the perspective of the air? The water? The plant life? Are we getting better at telling their stories?

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FIELD OBSERVATIONS Data Collection by way of: Feb 14 : Environmental Awareness Survey (as a link to homework page) 1) My field journal recording classroom discussions Impromptu interviews with students who participate in class discussions Cafeteria observations (of just my Socials 11 students) included in my field journal a. Hopefully most of them eat there :S My field journal of interviews with other teachers on cafeteria duty What examples of environmental responsibility does this teacher notice? Tell caf duty teacher who my kids are that Im researching. (see Paul Rogers & Chris Jacoby) Taking in of Journal Prompts: (ask Julia my gr. 12 student helper to start electronically transcribing entries of students)








Figure 1: Snapshot of Research Design Timeline. For full timeline see Appendix A.

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This is a brief survey to help determine the level of environmental engagement or awareness in our class. Responses are anonymous and are limited to the students in Ms. Pagtakhan's A and E Social Studies 11 blocks. Please select only one response for each question. Thank you for your participation. 1. Environment issues are the most important topic affecting high school students today * 1 Strongly Agree () 2 () 3 () 4 () 5 () Strongly Disagree

2. My individual efforts within environmental protection each day can directly improve our environment. * 1 Strongly Agree () 2 () 3 () 4 () 5 () Strongly Disagree

3. A personal concern for the environment is necessary for improvements in the environment. * 1 Strongly Agree () 2 () 3 () 4 () 5 () Strongly Disagree

4. High school students have little control over environmental problems that exist in the world. *
1 2 3 4 5

Strongly Agree






Strongly Disagree

5. Incentives/reward would help me want to change my behavior to positively affect the environment. *
1 2 3 4 5

Strongly Agree






Strongly Disagree

6. Environmental extremists (tree huggers) turn me off and make me unwilling to make a commitment to protect the environment. *
1 2 3 4 5

Strongly Agree






Strongly Disagree

Figure 2: Snapshot of Initial Environmental Engagement Survey. For full survey in Appendix B.

An Assignment to Save the World (only less dramatic) PRESENTATION OF THE DATA:

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ACTION & DATA COLLECTION Two classes of Social Studies 11 students, a total of 27, were asked to participate in an anonymous online Environmental Awareness Survey in order to establish a baseline of what their attitudes were towards environmental education. Of the 27 students, 25 completed the survey. Some of results are listed below but complete results can be found in Appendix C:

Figure 3: On-line EE Survey Results 1. Environment issues are the most important topic affecting high school students today.

1 - Strongly Agree 2 Agree 3 Neither Agree or Disagree 4 Disagree 5 - Strongly Disagree Strongly Agree Strongly Disagree

0 0% 5 20% 9 36% 8 32% 3 12%

2. My individual efforts within environmental protection each day can directly improve our environment.

1 - Strongly Agree 2 8% 2 Agree 9 36% 3 Neither Agree or Disagree 10 40% 4 Disagree 4 16% 5 - Strongly Disagree 0 0% Strongly Agree Strongly Disagree

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3. A personal concern for the environment is necessary for improvements in the environment.

1 - Strongly Agree 12 48% 2 Agree 7 28% 3 Neither Agree or Disagree 6 24% 4 Disagree 0 0% 5 - Strongly Disagree 0 0% Strongly Agree Strongly Disagree

12. What do you do now to help protect/conserve the environment? (For instance: turning the tap off while you brush your teeth or bringing a re-useable mug). Why do you do it? Generally Environmentally Aware Student Responses To protect and conserve the environment I try to recycle as much as I can and encourage others to do the same. Turn off water, lights ect. i try to turn off the lights when i don't necessarily need them, and i recycle and don't litter. I turn off the lights after leaving each room. I do this because leaving the lights on wastes a lot of energy when left on for several hours of the day. I try not to have the car running to heat up before I go to school. It may be colder but it is so bad for the environment. Im so strongly against it now. I turn of the lights when leaving the room, turn off the tap when not in use, occasionally take the bus and bring re-usable bags to the grocery store. I have a hybrid car! Well its not actually mine but my families, and thats really the only car we drive, so were helping the earth one drive at a time! Also I reuse plastic bags, I dont just throw them out I recycle on a daily basis and use a biodegradable cleaning detergent because small changes matter. I dont do a lot of activities related to environmental conservation, however, there are a few basic acts that I do every day at least to ensure that our planet does not get further polluted. For example I throw wastes into the garbage every time. I like doing it because it makes our planet look clean and unified. I turn off the tap when I brush my teeth and wash my face. I am an avid recycler, I always turn off the lights if not needed. I turn off the tap while brushing my teeth. I bring re-usable containers for food and drinks and I always turn off the car when Im waiting. I do it first to be environmentally conscious and secondly, it saves money. To be honest, I dont do much to protect the environment right now. I do make a conscious effort when the opportunity to be more environmental is glaring at me in the face. For example if theres a recycling bin right next to a garbage can. I do this because I know that these small steps will go towards the conservation of our environment. I turn off the tap because it wastes less water. I always turn the lights off when I leave the room.

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I turn my computer off at night to conserve power and turn off every appliance at home including heat when I leave the house. The usual stuff I try to reuse a lot of stuff like toys and other equipment I dont use anymore. I give it to someone else who might enjoy it. I turn off the lights when not in the room, try to reduce water To help the environment I recycle, turn off the lights if I dont need them and use reusable items. I do this because I know that somehow that can help the world we are living in. Not littering in any circumstances.

Responses that indicate a lack of decision-making power on environmentally conscious behaviours: I would augment my use of public transportation (not including taxis), turn of electricity when it is not in use, not use electrical devices as much, and of course conserve water!! If possible, (in terms of being only a high school student, and not having much control over these matters), I would encourage my school to begin using solar systems to create electricity as well as using a water waste management system in order to preserve water. Why do I do it? Because by taking these actions, I can ensure a positive future for myself and my peers. Because the safety of the world is what matters most to me and because Ive grown up surrounded by nature and Im not ready to give that up. I have a hybrid car! Well its not actually mine but my families, and thats really the only car we drive, so were helping the earth one drive at a time! Also I reuse plastic bags, I dont just throw them out

Responses which point to environmental apathy: Not really anything actually. I am actually like the most unintentional but least caring person about this sort of stuff. I feel that ones life in our society is so consistent to what we do no to help will remain the same but without drastic change in the entire world, no one will change in our small community. I am not concerned about the environment. Everything has a life cycle things do die

Responses which show environmentally aware actions outside the home: My involvement in protecting the environment has, sadly, drastically decreased over the past 3-4 years. Nowadays I only really take short showers and turn off the lights when I leave the room. Im also involve in ForestEthics, an environmental organization dedicated to protecting the Great Bear Rainforest of BC but the most I do is sign petitions and write a comment when it is necessary.

An Assignment to Save the World (only less dramatic) Figure 4: Journal Prompts and General Entries by Students. Excerpts from Appendix D. JOURNAL PROMPTS February 17: Look at the following photos and their captions. Notice that the photos on the left are from your textbook and the ones on the right are the same topic but from a different perspective. How would the stories of the post war period change if they were told from the perspective of the air? The water? The plant life? Are we getting better at telling their stories? STUDENT ENTRIES

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If the post war period were told in a different perspective, they would think that were not being heard because although we know that their dying or unhealthy we havent changed out habits. Yes, during the last few years we have become more aware of what is happening however there hasnt been enough change. Air, millions of cars have been added to cities and each day gallons of gas is burned. Plants, everyday millions of trees have been cut down even though we know that we need them. Water, pollution in water is so bad that the toxic levels are rising. Yes we hear that they are hurting and dying however we turn the other cheek and let it happen. Guy: If one were to look at the stories of post war change through the eyes of the environment, they would be told much differently. It would be much sadder, telling how we wiped out the forests, poisoned the water and air as well as destroying the soil. Our progress is their destruction. However, slowly we are making progress to a greener future. Sting Ray: If the stories of the booming happy post war period were told from different perspectives I dont believe that it would thoroughly reflect humanitys perspective. On one hand, the end of the war meant less air and water pollution. However, consumerism, the automobile era, contributed much more pollution to the atmosphere, ocean, and lakes. Humans didnt realize what they were doing, didnt see any wrong in landfills, dumping garbage into the ocean or increasing dependence on oil. We knew so little, and for this reason, I believe the story of the 1950s-1990s would be a very sad one as seen from the perspective of the air, water, and plant life. This entry is proof that we are getting better at telling the untold story-at least now we know. Knowing is hardly enough, though. Now comes the hard part. Now comes the action. Post-journal prompt discussion with Sting-Wray: .. but this makes me depressed and angry because we are the future and we are apathetic and unoriginal Bo: In the 1950s everyone saw everything positively. There was new development and everyone was happy during the post war period. If plant life, air and water had thoughts and feelings and were able to be heard they would not be as happy as the people around them. Plants would be losing their friends and family, and air would feel trapped and uncomfortable due to the lessened amount of space. Air would also feel dirty because of pollution. Water may, however feel like the cool guy on the block. Hes allowed into all these new homes through the tap, while boys and girls everywhere are playing with him in their front yards all the time. I do not understand how a human could get better at portraying their stories.

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February 24, 2012: List 3-5 core values you live by. Briefly state why. Then indicate where environmental responsibility ranks on this list and explain why.

My core values: Energy I want to enjoy every moment of my life. I want every day to be happy and energetic. Bravery I dont want to look back at my life and regret if I was too afraid to do/try something. Spontaneous I want to keep my life exciting and not boring. BTW, both my bellybutton and cartilage piercing were spontaneous. Hard-Working I want to be successful. In school and in the future. I believe dedication and hard working is necessary. Health Im not a crazy healthperson, and I also eat junk food, but I consider health life style is important. All the morals are ranked about equal. Environmental responsibility: It may sound selfish, but environment responsibility is not on my core values list. I try my best to save energy and not waste and use my 3Rs but my personal needs come first. Phoebe: Fairness, growth, trust I believe people should feel what they say is sacred, independence I want to gain independence beneficial to future, helpfulness want to be able to aid others and help in need. In all honesty, environmental responsibility fits pretty low on the list because our parents drive us places, and as teenagers are sometimes too consumed in our lives and forget about the environment. We are also not as aware about what the dangers are of what can happen. Bo: a. Honour, hard-work (determination), individualism knowing what you want so you can get there. Honour because anyone could have courage but to have true honour to stand up for people and yourself is meaningful. Hard work because you cant get anywhere without it. Individualism because knowing what you want is half the battle. If you have path to follow life is much easier. b. It (Environmental Responsibility) is definitely not a priority. The things created in life were made to be used not preserved. Saying this, however, I dont not leave all my lights on or drive a Hummer. I am aware of the environment and Im not wasteful. Until theres a major problem, not many people will care and I do not care enough to make a difference.

Mo-Mo: My core values: 1) Family 2) Friends 3) Excitement 4) Humour 5) Outgoing. Environmental responsibility is further down the list because I value the way others treat me more than I value the environment, its a terrible thing to say but it is the reason its further down the list, but Environmental Responsibility is about half way down the list for me. Pearson: My three moral values are -Telling the truth (trust) if people dont trust me I panic and become obsessed with trying to get them to trust me I dont know why--in the words of Russel Peters do the right thing I am an extremely guilty person and doing an immoral thing literally keeps me up at night. --attempting optimism looking on the bright side of things makes life easier. Environmental responsibility is not one of my major concerns. It isnt because Ive just never needed to worry about it.

An Assignment to Save the World (only less dramatic)

March 2, 2012: This week you have been presenting songs of the 50s-70s which embodied the values of that era. What was clear in the songs that you picked was the message of anti-war, a desire for governments to be more tolerant etc. Protest Songs are not unique to these eras. So today Im asking you to journal about the songs that you listen to. How are they reflective of your values? If you have to, take out your play list and scroll through it. Then answer: about a. What does this say what you believe? b. Is it an accurate reflection of who you are and what you value? Explain. Part III: There were quite a few songs from the 70s (particularly in response to the Vietnam war). It seemed that the protest movement embodied the entire era of the 60s and 70s. Is there a movement/idea of your era that seems to percolate through in the music of your generation. What is it? Hermione:

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I think my generation does not have a movement and the reason I think this is because our generation is too focused on individual problems rather than problems that affect us all. I also think were lazy and very oblivious. I believe our generation thinks too highly of ourselves and think we can do anything. With these problems, we are unable to think of anything or anyone except for ourselves. Another reason we invented the word lol how sad is that? Im sure if there was an ipod app for creating your own movement, we may start one. Rebeccca: In our society, I find people listen to different types of music depending on what they are doing or what mood theyre in. If kids are partying they want to listen to continue partying. If a kids is depressed the music that makes them feel that state will support how they feel or their actions. For ex. Some music I feel that I believe in I relate to the lyrics and others I listen to solely for the purpose of the catchy tune that makes me feel happy. Part III: I feel that kids within 2 or 3 years of me dont protest at all that much unless you find a kid that feels strongly about politics. In the community I live in kids would protest for dumb things like getting a car, or clothes, they want. Unfortunately many kids dont see the real issues in life and if I hear kids protesting it does not sound like it should be a protesting matter.

Sting Wray: I listen to classical music mostly, which although containing a message is hard to derive much meaning from. The kinds of songs I am periodically attracted to (rather than those I regularly listen to) speak of environmental messages, and have a happy tune. I think this says that I care about the environment, and that I like uplifting things. Im not sure if my generation has a movement. I wish we did. On one hand there are the depressed, unmotivated and wholly boring individuals with no dreams (like **** and **** there). I see those people, those young people, I could cry. Right now Im so depressed because they just dont see. Theres something more. Whatever battle I fight, whether for the environment or peace, will I have to fight alone? I pray not. I pray they mature.

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Figure 5: Sampling of Post-Lesson Teacher Journal Entries. All entries are found in Appendix E.
WEEK OF FEBRUARY 21-24 Curriculum Topic: Emerging Canadian Identity Topics Include: Canada as an emerging Middle Power Canada-US Relations Questions for class discussions or for pausing and reflecting: As students continue work on Cultural Values assignment, they are asked the following: Given the spectrum of policies you have studied from 1950-80, what would you say are this eras values? Who is deciding what these values are? How do you know?


Above were some of the guiding questions I asked today and got some pretty stunned looks from the kids. Picture a chart with a list of legislation associated with a PMs time in office. So the first part of the chart is data gathering and the far right column asks the students to identify the values and characteristics associated with the era. Crickets. I hear crickets. The kids dont know what Im talking about. Some ask for a definition and examples of values. I give examples. I say, if Trudeau passes legislation making illegal to discriminate against women and visible minorities, what does that say about what Trudeau is important? Silence. Some answers that come out in small voices, He likes women? then laughter ensues because it turns into Trudeau is a ladies man. Great.

So today, I show video clips that show music associated with each piece of legislation in the hope of getting kids to see and feel the vibe of each era. Then I ask the same question hoping the music will tap into their emotion which will then tap into some vocabulary they have about values. It works but I had really high expectations. Still vocabulary was a problem. They were using words like they would use in grade 6. On Friday, Im compiling a list of all the values weve been using in class and see if we can add to it or at least journal about it. Their assignment after this PM data gathering chart is to look up songs now associated with each era (from this chart I made them do) which reflect the era. Im still hoping this will tap into something deeper than what they are giving me. I truly think this is just a vocabulary problem. They will be presenting these songs next Tuesday.

So today, I put up a list of values and ask them to a) list 3-5 of their core values and briefly explain why those are their values. Order is not a big deal. Then apart b) They had to tell me where environmental responsibility ranked in that list and why. Is it absent is it high on the list is it low and then explain. Again, the kids had a hard time naming values so I had a pdf file projecting on the board of all the values weve discussed as well as all the ones we could still go into. This was a good thing because then they could start attaching their behaviours to that value. When we later went back into curriculum, they could better see a piece of legislation for what it embodied in terms of values and what message it sent by passing it. At least thats what I got from the discussion. But I havent read their journals yet so Im pretty curious as to how well it really went.

An Assignment to Save the World (only less dramatic)

WEEK OF MARCH 6-9 Curricular topics: Canada in the International Scene 1990s Topics Include: Peacekeeping Efforts (The Middle East, Kosovo, Somalia, Rwanda)

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Questions for class discussions or for pausing and reflecting: Notice the powerpoint slides of the Middle East, Kosovo, Somalia & Rwanda. What do you see? Given our discussion last week, is there anything else you notice in the photos perhaps something more silent. Change in direction of research move back to values ed. Used KONY 2012 at end of notes to discuss parallels with the above peacekeeping efforts. Asked about what values were embodied in Kony 2012.


Kony 2012 who knew? So thats all it took. Today happened so fast I wish I could have put that energy into a jar and saved it. Recap: taught on Canadas 4 peacekeeping efforts using ppt mostly visuals of ravaged landscape. Note to self, one slide might be to vivid in terms of vivid mental imagery. Take out for next year? Showed Kony 2012 vimeo last. They showed up to class excited, asking me if I had heard about it. Took a bit to settle them down. In a nutshell, the passion is there. The drive to get involved is there. All that passion that I want them to have towards EE was there and spurred on by Kony 2012. It seemed that the kids just needed a cause that was real, now, attainable, tangible. The value vocab came out. Today was crazy and I dont ever remember teaching to that level of chaos and excitement before. Maybe the problem with EE programing is that its too removed from kids. Wait, Konys in Uganda Why does it work? Whats the appeal? Humans helping humans? Thats the draw? Konys made them action oriented but what about it does it?

Fire is still burning. Im a little nervous about Cover the Night and am worried that showing the Kony 2012 video resulted in me endorsing their radical behavior. Oh god please dont let this go badly. In trying to reign in their excitement I asked them why they were doing this and why they felt this way. Why now? ... and what does this say about what you believe in? And they all looked at me like I was an idiot because it was obvious to them about what they cared and valued. It was obvious that it was about peace, justice, care for other teenagers, and safety and a few other things I couldn't get on the board fast enough. I heard someone in grade 11 started a fb group about Cover the Night. A few other SS teachers have shown the video too sowho knows how far this is going to go. Its crazy how one thing just seems to happen.. one very good example of action in this case, puts everything into perspective for them. All tools of vivid mental imagery, employing music, stories and humanizing the content made them really 'see' everything (every value) I'd been trying to teach about the post war period in one 30 minute video about Joseph Kony. Not sure what the next step is but will talk to Jen if we can take this on as a dept.

Last Day of Classes before Spring Break E block has kids leaving early due to trips. Journaling is done quickly and absent mindedlyJournaling was under 10 minutes today. Not good. Not looking forward to reading responses. Lots of kids absent (half of A block is gone already. Sucks because I really wanted a sample of their journals for AR.

An Assignment to Save the World (only less dramatic) ASSERTIONS

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The survey data along with the discussions in class, have allowed me to better identify the problems in my EE design which possibly contributed to their already disengaged attitude when it comes to environmental stewardship. At the initial stage of data collection, where students completed the online anonymous survey, students comments generally fell under the category of aware actions. A common characteristic of these actions is that they tend to happen within their own homes. The vast majority of respondents turn the lights off and dont run the tap. Whether those behaviours are due to being environmentally conscious cannot really be established from this survey. When asked the reason for their behaviours, they tended to cite environmental awareness as the rationale although I wonder if the title of the survey had more to do with manufacturing that response. In the 1980s, my mother often told me not to run the tap or leave lights on in an empty room but that was not because she was concerned about our ecological footprint. She actually knows very little about this topic to this day. In fact her requests to conserve were mostly centered around our hydro bill, a reason one respondent gave on the survey.

The February 17th journal entries show that students are very aware of the harm done to the planet. Guy writes, if one were to look at the stories of post war change through the eyes of the environment, they would be told much differently. It would be much sadder, telling how we wiped out the forests, poisoned the water and air as well as destroying the soil. Our progress is their destruction. However, slowly we are making progress to a greener future. The entry points to two things: 1) his awareness of the issues and 2) the role of progress. There is a tendency in history classes for students to dismiss grave events of the past to sheer idiocy. The Cold War and subsequent skirmishes in and around the world wouldnt have happened if Kennedy and Khrushchev just had a little tolerance for their opposing political ideologies. If only it were that easy. Students tend to think that their more advanced

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perspectives would have circumvented any crises of the past, whether they were ideological clashes or environmental mishaps. But due to the limitations of 20th century technology and/or the general acceptance of misinformation, the problem blew wildly out of control and consequently earned itself a spot in our history books of what not to do. That is, after all the nature of progress; were supposed to get better at living on earth, not worse. It was like Guys journal entry was substantiating one of Orrs myths of education --that ignorance is a solvable problem. What my socials classroom is probably too young to realize is that ignorance one of lifes rare consistencies. With every ecological crisis averted, there is usually a new one created. Ignorance is not a solvable problem, but rather an inescapable part of the human condition (Orr, 1996).

Sting Ray says it best when he says, *k+nowing is hardly enough, though. Now comes the hard part. Now comes the action. Students know that the adults dont really have a handle on how to protect the environment. My class was stunned into silence when Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol in order to save an estimated 14 billion in penalties given our present economic climate (CBC, 2011). In so far as the students were concerned, they knew environmental protection was important but they also know that it is expensive and requires major shifts in behavior. This sentiment was confirmed when 44% of them either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement that they were only willing to be more environmentally responsible if didnt inconvenience or change their lifestyle too drastically. 32% had no opinion on the matter. So my class consists of two types of people those who will make marginal changes towards more environmentally conscious behaviours and those who will leave their fate to policy makers. The new question of the action research became this: what would it take for all my students to be more cognizant of their role in environmental responsibility despite the inconsistent messages by policy makers and governments. The next section of this report posits that the answer lies somewhere in value education.

An Assignment to Save the World (only less dramatic) The Value Education Factor

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It happened rather accidentally. In attempting to employ, Kieran Egans tools of Imaginative Education (IE) in a post-war period unit designed with his Romantic Understanding Framework in mind, it became clear that students had limited skill at linking a persons behaviours to any particular value. One of the lessons within the unit was about the legacies left by four Prime Ministers from the period of 1948 to 1980. As always with Egans work, engaging the imagination requires tapping into students own hopes fears and emotions. With this in mind, I used the tool of the literate eye or, in lay-teachers speak, a graphic organizer to gather information (specifically legislation) on each leader. The IE aspect of the chart happens when instead of simply fact-finding, students had to state an underlying value which that leader had to have possessed in passing such a law. The goal was to humanize the historical figure and content by identifying the principles they believed in. Figure 6. Snapshot of Prime Ministers of the Post War Period Legislation & Values Chart.

The process of completing the chart became the Trojan horse of the unit. Students experienced only marginal problems in completing the fact-finding section. They simply had to go to the index of their

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Counterpoints textbook and/or Student Workbook, find the bold-faced term and then correctly transcribe it onto their chart. Since many had done that part for homework of this five-page assignment, they came to school hoping that I would tell them what pages the values could be found. My desk was busy with individuals coming up as representatives of groups asking what a value was and how they were supposed to know what value a leader was imbued with. Even after learning all they could about a particular persons actions, policies they had gotten behind, arguments these leaders had gotten into with opposing groups, students had real difficulties making conclusions about this persons belief system. Needless to say, this sparked a whole new series of lessons which aimed at giving them some value-vocabulary.

It became clear that this difficulty had to be a contributing factor to their disconnect between actions and personal views. To them, actions were not necessarily symbols of larger beliefs. Actions were separate, like jobs that people do because they are required to do them. Trudeau made discrimination against women and homosexuals illegal because that was his job as Prime Minister. Thats was just his job so he did it. This was from a student who visited my desk in excess of 5 times in one class period. Only after giving a definition of value, naming some and giving examples of how those would play out in our actions, could they then complete the column on some level. But this took three classes of I dont get it by students to even get them to a place where they could name some core values of political leaders. What then, of their own beliefs?

If they saw little connection between word and action then of course watering their spider plant would have no bearing on their allegiance to the plant or even the earth. Its a meaningless action for them that gave a superficial head nod to EE. If they are not awakened to the power of the things they do,

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they will not be able to make conclusions about what it is they actually value. Opting for the recycling bin says they believe in something. They cant firmly believe that the only reason they do recycle is because the bin is just as available as a garbage can. At the end of the day it is still a choice one that they did make. I realize now that educating the student to the power of their choices has become the missing piece in the design of EE lessons in the past. With this fairly recent realization, the focus in my classroom now has become naming those values hidden in the subtle choices they make.

So if I were to re-write my EE design within the Social Studies curriculum, it would incorporate two new things: 1) lessons which invite students to think about and acquire value-vocabulary and 2) regularly engage students in activities that alert them to their values. I would hope that the byproduct of these lessons is the understanding that EE is simply about being responsible, ethical, and caring. If I approach it at this very base level in the future, then that would make it personal, tapping into the human emotion to engage the student. After all it is the emotion that allows students access to knowledge of a topic (Egan, 1997). From there the hope would be that they could generate more creative solutions to any given ecological issue.

But how did I get here? How did I come to overlook EE as an issue of values? How did it come to be that my own concern for the environment took a back seat to the PLOs? The next section of the report will elaborate on the issue I coined earlier as rigidity of teacher practice. It will address my role as teacher-planner, trying to cover too much, and consequently leaving students with no deeper an understanding of environmental issues then where we began.

An Assignment to Save the World (only less dramatic) Rigidity of Teacher Practice

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Recall that the design for this study was the product of an over-packed curriculum and a mindfulness of the provincial exam at the end of the course. In attempting to meet PLOs and lead students toward success, the practice of teaching has become inflexible, highly focused on minute-particulars. The proof is in my 2011-2012 Year plan submitted to my Dean of Academics that is a direct response to the IRP (Appendices G & H). It is important to note that the action research is not about blaming the course or the Ministry of Education for who I am and how I teach, because as Gillian Judson, Imaginative Ecological Educator puts it, the PLOs are just possible learning outcomes. How much we adhere to that depends on our own educational philosophy (G. Judson, personal communication, October, 2010). Judson reminds teachers that there is such thing as autonomy.

But what cannot be overlooked is that the level of teacher autonomy is also determined by the community in which said teacher operates. My teaching practice is a product of many things: my own values, my school community, and the institution responsible for authoring curriculum. In trying to balance all those, the topic of EE has not emerged as something more natural, more freely. I can relate the situation to time spent my three year old. On days off from work, we relish in the fact that Mondays and Thursdays are Girls Days where opportunities to make pillow forts, bake, or simply spin umbrellas in the rain are countless. These are days where I hope to instill the values of strength, love, and responsibility. But hovering over Girls Days is the schedule set out by the pattern of life: preschool drop off, household chores, preschool pick up, lunch, groceries, afternoon nap, and dinner prep etc... In watching her schedule-driven mother, inherently my daughter is learning what responsibility and strength means but what is less apparent in those chaotic days is that these are all done out of love. Love is the most important and yet I worry if it all happened too intermittently, squeezed in during story

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time before naps or too subtly when I kiss her while shes eating. The bottom line is that you cant schedule love, it just needs to happen.

In my practice EE is something I truly care about. And in trying to make that apparent, I planned extensively for it. In past years I paid particular attention to sequencing of topics, providing guest speakers, outdoor time etc And like my parenting can be at times, it was a whirl wind of pre-planned lessons to drive home the fundamentals of environmental education. In terms of this very action research project and my original schedule for implementation, I placed EE lessons solely on Fridays so that I could devote a day for addressing those topics. Tuesdays and Wednesdays would encompass the regular curriculum. If some relevant connection came up about EE on those days, Id likely overlook it and save it for Fridays class. Although there is some value in putting routines in place, those same routines can become mechanical, allowing only for a limited topic to think about and an environmental awareness that comes once out of a five day teaching week. In the absence of that routine would students be as mindful of the environment as the teacher-planner intended? According to my earlier discussion with Leah, the answer is mostly not. CONCLUSION The research project has reminded me about a view I share with David Orr that all education is environmental education (1996). The process began as plan to establish a relationship between students and living things in an attempt to make them more environmentally aware. Remember the plants on the window sill? It has become something else. It has become a process of awakening students to their own belief systems in the hope that it will connect them back to the values presented in EE. It has also been about me, as a teacher who has tried year after year to drive the message of environmental responsibility home but having marginal success, mostly apathy and disinterest. The

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process of research and self-reflection has given me a heightened awareness of my own practice as teacher-planner, scheduling in time to relate curriculum concepts to the environment when I should have also allowed it to come out more naturally. Its quite a ways from where I began, but it has helped me understand why barriers to environmental education have existed in my classroom.

An Assignment to Save the World (only less dramatic) APPENDICES

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APPENDIX A: An Assignment to Save the World Research Design & Schedule for Implementation APPENDIX B: Environmental Awareness Survey APPENDIX C: Student Responses to Environmental Awareness Survey APPENDIX D: Student Journal Prompts & Student Responses APPENDIX E: Teachers Daily Field Journal (reflections at the end of each EE infused class) APPENDIX F: Prime Ministers of the Post-War Period Connecting Values to Laws Chart APPENDIX G: BC Integrated Resource Package 2005, Prescribed Learning Outcomes for Social Studies 11 APPENDIX H: Social Studies 11 2011-2012 Year Plan, Collingwood School

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