“Environmental education has been the foundation of my teaching practice since I first started my professional journey”, says recent Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) graduate, Taylor Simon.
It is no surprise that by the end of Taylor’s B.Ed. degree that she was awarded as a finalist to the David Suzuki Fellowship Award through Natural Curiosity, an award established by The Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto. This award recognizes pre-service teachers for their contributions to environmental education, specifically when planning for and working with K-6 children.
With a lifelong passion for the outdoors, Taylor has been participating in nature-based programs such as The Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario’s virtual Ontario Wilderness Leadership Symposium, Project Wild, Below Zero, and Project Wet workshops, as well as completing her Advanced Wilderness and Remote First Aid training. These and other passions were ignited and built upon when embarking on her degree at Trent University’s School of Education, a program that offers many opportunities for teacher candidates to engage with and learn from the land and Indigenous community members.
“It was in the Bachelor of Education program that I was able to further my learning of Indigenous perspectives and outdoor education through the Enwayaang Institute’s “Indigenous Foundations in Health and Education” certificate, the Indigenous Firekeeping Placement, and the Eco-Mentorship Program. It is through these professional development opportunities where I began to learn the impact of colonization and the importance of implementing Indigenous perspectives in my teaching practice.”
Staying connected to the outdoors during a pandemic
Learning on the land at Trent University is a privilege that many teacher candidates have during their time in the program, where Indigenous ways of knowing are embedded throughout their courses. Though finding ways to connect with the land as a group had its challenges this past year, what it did afford was the opportunity to reflect on and plan for future teaching and learning.
“During lockdown, I have been able to develop outdoor education programming for my summer job, undertaking professional development opportunities – including mentorship and networking opportunities with outdoor education professionals – and I am anticipating taking my Environmental Education Additional Qualification this summer”, said Taylor. “I learned a lot about teaching with an Indigenous lens and the importance of inquiry-based learning from Natural Curiosity 2nd Edition, as it helped me orient myself to land and place-based teaching and the importance of gratitude and reciprocity for the land we occupy.”