The Characteristics of Effective Environmental Education Programs - An exploration of the perceptions of environmental educators in Southern Ontario
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The intensification of Ontario’s communities through recent policies such as the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan (GGH) will reduce the amount of local natural spaces for residents. Presently many of Ontario’s youth experience the natural world primarily by visiting environmental education centres. This study used sequential exploratory mixed methods to discover the perceptions of environmental educators concerning the realities of their daily practice. The first phase of the study utilized a grounded theory approach to construct an understanding of environmental education in Ontario. The interrelated themes of increasing environmental consciousness, evaluation of programs and centres, influence of visiting adults on program effectiveness, and programming were revealed. The second phase utilized the themes derived to construct an online survey in order to measure the actual practice of environmental educators compared to their perceived best methods. The results indicate that the scarcity of effective program and institutional evaluation, ineffective communication between supervising adults, and the conflict over pedagogical aims lead to some centres potentially only achieving mediocre increases in the environmental consciousness of the participants. The need for explicit, accessible areas where youth can engage in repetitive unstructured activities in the natural world is highlighted as an area for community stakeholders to focus their efforts on if pro-environmental behaviour is a desired trait in residents.