The road to sustainability is a long one. It’s bumpy and daunting, and best started on when young. For meaningful change to occur, a vital piece of equipment is also required — knowledge. That’s where Green Street comes in, helping to make the road ahead a little greener.
Green Street was a national program equipping young people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to contribute to a sustainable future. Working in collaboration with their schools and communities, students actively participated in meaningful projects. Students learned about the world in which they live, and how to look after the one they are inheriting.
About the program
Green Street’s initial strategy centered on supporting voluntary sector organizations. They offered schools impactful sustainable education programs that responded to student and teacher needs. Over the course of the program, while Green Street’s goals and core values remained, its strategy evolved.
Green Street moved beyond simply “filling gaps” in existing school curricula. It went further by providing something more hands on, engaging, and in the end effective.
- “Spaces,” both physical and virtual, were created. There, powerful working relationships could be forged. Promising new approaches in sustainability education could be tested. Proven programs from environmental organizations could also be accessed.
- An online network facilitated support and exchange among Green Street participants and multiple actors. This promoted the development of local innovation and the emergence of a national movement.
Education through engagement, that’s the key. It’s how you help youth on their journey to become active, global citizens working towards a sustainable future.
Green Street ended in 2010. The Canadian Teacher’s Federation launched ImagineAction as Green Street’s successor.
Granting Total: $10 million
Key lessons from Green Street
- Young people learn when they engage in a learning process. Engaged learning builds on students’ passions. It inspires hope in their future. Engagement is facilitated by:
- creating opportunities to act
- forming relationships (with other people and with place)
- using meaningful and integrated content to understand “big ideas”. School-community action projects provide ideal vehicles for this sort of engagement.
- Supporting teacher engagement is essential. Teachers are at the core of engaged education. We learned this lesson early on in the program when we targeted students via television and the internet. It didn’t work. Students weren’t positioned to influence the types of programs that would be used in their schools. The target audience soon shifted to teachers, and that made all the difference.
- School-community collaboration is a win-win for everyone involved. The community/voluntary sector plays an important role in supporting students and teachers. And it goes both ways. Young people are tremendous (and often untapped) resources for their communities.
- Voluntary sector organizations that specialize in offering educational programs are a significant source of support to schools. They’re essential contributors to overall program design. However, it is critical to ensure that students and teachers have the strongest voice. Only they can define their own needs.
- Cultural norms of education, more than provincial curricula, can limit the effectiveness of sustainability education. The model of students seated at desks with their teacher in front is an outdated one. It’s not a model to galvanize change. You need to create spaces for innovation.
- Education needs to build equally on the strengths of students, teachers and communities. It’s a prerequisite for real transformation.
- With the right online communication tools, local innovations can spread through a network of support and exchange. However, creating a functional virtual forum that meets the needs of diverse participants, and connects them to one another presents a major challenge.
- While education is a provincial jurisdiction in Canada, provinces should communicate more with one another. They could learn a lot. Bringing the Quebec experience to the attention of the rest of Canada had major benefits. It resulted in the adaptation and broad dissemination of approaches originating in in the province.
- Innovation in education is a learning process that never ends. Adapting to a changing landscape, requires continual program adjustments.