New curriculum brings Northern environment into focus

New curriculum brings Northern environment into focus
Education Minister Jackson Lafferty has high hopes for a new school curriculum that promises to bring a Northern perspective on environmental issues to grade school students.Photo: Jack Danylchuk.

A new environmental curriculum tailored to Northern experiences was unveiled last week in Yellowknife and Education Minister Jack Lafferty hopes it will contribute to the development of a generation of more aware and active citizens.

“My hope is that we will have a generation that is more environmentally aware, especially when it comes to environmental studies,” Lafferty said after the symbolic presentation of a $150,000 cheque from CIBC to the World Wildlife Fund of Canada and Ecology North.

The two environmental organizations partnered with Northern educators to develop Schools for a Living Planet, a program for Grades 3 to 8 that focuses on climate change, pollution and Northern waters.

“I think it will be a real eye-opener for many students,” said Lafferty, who thinks the new curriculum will “integrate well with our Northern Studies program.”

Free curriculum and lesson plans can be accessed online in seven of the 11 languages of the Northwest Territories.

Northern resource projects have relied on southern expertise for monitoring environmental impacts, said Lafferty, and “we need our own people to be involved as experts. We’re expecting positive outcomes from this study program.”

Intended to connect students with their immediate environment and ecosystem, the program was presented to the annual convention of the NWT Teachers’ Association.

Holly Norris, a teacher at Deninu School in Fort Resolution who helped develop the curriculum, said her students are often out on the land and the course material “helps them to better understand our land and resources and how to protect them and what it means to care for it.”

Course material brings local issues into focus, making students “more aware of what happens to our water because of waste we produce and processes we can be a part of to protect the land.

“Students have become more aware of our local landfill site and how that can cause pollution in the lake, and how garbage can travel in the environment and affect hunting, trapping and the food we eat,” Norris said.

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