Reverse Decision to End School Environmental Leadership Programs!

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  “The clearly visible impacts of climate change are accelerating and are threatening to disrupt the lives of billions of people around the world. Notably the lives and livelihoods of younger generations are at stake. Acting now with better education can have a major impact a few years down the road, when young people come of age and can make the decisions that shape society” – Climate Education Initiatives Pick up Pace. United Nations Climate Change article, May 2, 2019

Youth are aware of this and are demanding change. They want action to prevent irreversible destruction of our planet and to ensure a future for themselves and their descendants. Across the world, environmental skills and awareness are needed to bring about this change.

At the same time, 12% of Canadian children ages 9-19 are affected by mood and anxiety disorders. Less than 20 per cent of these children will receive appropriate treatment. Children and teens with mental illness symptoms are at much higher risk of experiencing mental illness as adults.

There is a large body of both experimental and observational evidence supporting the beneficial impact of the natural environment on mental well-being. Studies indicate that connection to nature is significantly related to lower levels of overall, state cognitive and trait cognitive anxiety.

Imagine if these two critical issues of our time, environmental stewardship and mental health, could be simultaneously addressed.

We don’t have to imagine. A school that can achieve this already exists. For 35 years, a school in Halton Region has been offering experiential environmental leadership high school education programs for grades 9-10 (Trailhead) and 11-12 (The Bronte Creek Project) including a Specialist High Skills Major in the Environment. These programs are offered to all students in the region who are interested in the environment and take place in a natural setting which promotes social and mental well-being. A highly dedicated staff imparts academic excellence and develops environmental expertise in their students.

Testimonials over the long years of their existence attest to the success of these programs. This is best conveyed through the words of the students themselves:

“Being at BCP (The Bronte Creek Project) so far has changed my life and will continue to. I love it so much, it is so healthy being out in nature all day, and for people with anxiety, it is really beneficial. Being in BCP gives you a new perspective on life, how it is changing and how it will continue to change if we can’t do something about climate change.” - Current BCP student

“Although it was 23 years ago, the BCP remains ... the greatest experience of my entire life … I wanted my own kids to take this program.” - BCP student from 1996 class

The Halton District School Board is now ending these programs as a cost-cutting move.

These programs are a vital solution and there is no alternative in the school system. They should be the model for education that produces healthier and better adjusted adults to guide our society through the challenges and uncertain times ahead.

For the sake of our future, for our children’s future, the decision to end these programs is unacceptable and must be reversed.

 

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