In order to ensure the value of outdoor education is recognized beyond COEO, we have taken an active role in promoting the multiple benefits of this approach to learning.
To this end, the organization has recently taken steps to create:
- Greater presence on social media
- Raised awareness through publications in public media
- Meetings with members of the provincial government to advocate on behalf of endangered outdoor programs and recent funding cuts to Ontario’s public education system
- Statement on The Value of Outdoor Experiential Education (OEE)
We believe Outdoor Experiential Education (OEE) is a valuable educational investment that pays for itself.
• It will help in achieving the goals in Education That Works For You
• It improves youth physical and mental health
• It improves youth resilience to better prepare students for post-secondary education and the world of work
• It promotes lifelong emotional, physical and spiritual well-being
For these reasons, COEO advocates for the following government actions:
1. Acknowledge the value of OEE by preserving current levels of funding, and educational opportunities, for OEE in future school years;
2. Maintain a mix of local and further afield OEE locations
3. Preserve continued development of curriculum-based OEE through appropriately qualified OCTs, with the teaching carried out by both OCTs and instructor specialists.
The Ontario government recently launched a public consultation about how to ensure the health benefits of nature are fully realized for all Ontarians. This is part of the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan commitment to provide people with more opportunities to enjoy provincial parks and support the worldwide Healthy Parks Healthy People movement.
“Spending time in nature and green spaces has a positive impact on our health and wellbeing,” said Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “We’re fortunate in Ontario to have many beautiful parks and green spaces across the province, but we want to find more ways for people to use them as part of a healthy lifestyle.That’s why we want to hear from you about how we can improve Ontario Parks programs, policies and partnerships to connect more people with the health benefits of nature.” See a short video here.
The province is looking for valuable insights from the public, health care providers, researchers, educators, environmental organizations and the tourism industry about their experiences with nature and health. Feedback will help develop more effective programs, policies, and partnerships to improve Ontarians’ awareness of and access to the health benefits of provincial parks and green spaces.
- Healthy Parks Healthy People is a worldwide movement to promote the positive health benefits that nature can provide.
- Ontario Parks has supported this movement since 2015, offering signature events including a Healthy Parks Healthy People day where there is no-charge for day-use visitation at all provincial parks, the 30×30 Challenge in August, and First Day Hikes on the first of January.
- Canadians spend 90 per cent of each day indoors and 69 per cent of their waking time sitting.
- Only nine per cent of Canadian kids aged 5 to 17 get the 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity they need each day.
- Spending time in nature can lower the risk of heart attack by 50 per cent, reduce the risk of mental health challenges and help combat chronic disease.
- The Healthy Parks Healthy People consultation will be open for comment until November 25, 2019. Participate now by following this link: Consultation: Healthy Parks Healthy People
On August 16th, 2019, Jeff Yurek, Ontario’s Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, sent a letter to each of the province’s 36 Conservation Authorities, ordering them to “wind down” unnecessary programs that do not relate to their “core mandate.” At least one Conservation Authority had already chosen to cut their Children’s Environmental Education program in response to funding cuts. Responses to this letter include: Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority’s CAO Doug Hevenor’s response to Minister Yurek’s letter and COEO’s An Open Letter of Support for Conservation Authority Staff. Please take a minute to let your local Conservation Authority and MPP know how much you value environmental education programs and don’t want to see them cut from the core mandate of Ontario’s Conservation Authorities.
You can read our July 16th, 2019, submission to Minister of Education Stephen Lecce here: Letter to Minister Lecce from COEO.
Thank you to Marit Stiles, NDP Official Opposition Critic for Education, for meeting with us and for writing an excellent Letter of Support for Outdoor Education Centres, June 28 2019
Want to get involved in advocating for OEE in Ontario? Please contact your local MPP and request that they write a letter of support, with similar requests for action from the new Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce. https://www.ola.org/en/get-involved/contact-mpp
Take a minute to read and share the recent Op-Ed article published on July 15th, 2019, in the Toronto Star entitled The Value of Outdoor Education. Maybe you can write a similar article about your OEE experience and submit it to a local media outlet?
Please follow our social media accounts and keep an eye on local media as we continue our advocacy efforts.
Follow us on:
Twitter (@COEOoutdoors https://twitter.com/coeooutdoors)
Instagram (@COEOoutdoors https://www.instagram.com/coeooutdoors/)