In Southeast British Columbia, an effective systemic leadership model has emerged for supporting environmental education in the K-12 school system.

In 2000, the movement towards better integrating environmental education (EE) in school districts across the Columbia Basin was initiated with a partnership between the Columbia Basin Trust and Wildsight to offer the first school-based EE programming in the region. Following up on this, in 2001, a group of educators came together to develop a regional environmental education network. With support from Columbia Basin Trust and Selkirk College, the Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network (CBEEN) was formed. Since then, CBEEN, Wildsight, Parks Canada, Columbia Basin Trust the Columbia Outdoor School and other key organizations have laid the groundwork for the current system for effectively supporting environmental education.

In 2014, with the redesign of BC’s K-12 curriculum and its emphasis on place-based, community-based and environmental learning, CBEEN began to take intentional steps to distribute leadership. That year, CBEEN hosted their first Environmental Education Leadership Clinic in partnership with the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication (EECOM), and amongst other initiatives,  the vision for the provincial Classrooms to Communities (C2C) Network took form.

In 2015, CBEEN was recognized with the BC School Superintendent Association (BCSSA) Community Award of Recognition for “outstanding contributions to support and enhance public school education in the Province of British Columbia”. This opened a door to work more closely with school districts in the region. In 2016, with six partner school districts, CBEEN brought together teams of teachers, principals and senior leaders from each school district to a Leadership Clinic. The aim: to  create a plan to support school districts in responding to the curriculum and embedding cross-curricular environmental education. The value of collaboration between school districts and CBEEN was clear. The Kootenay-Boundary Environmental Education (KBEE) initiative emerged, providing support for teachers to better undertake and deepen rich outdoor and environmental learning.

In 2017, with the support of KBEE and the BC Environmental Educators Provincial Specialist Association (EEPSA), CBEEN brought together teachers from each school district in the region to create Local Chapters of EEPSA. These local chapters of teacher leaders  have proven to be very effective in catalyzing action in and across school districts. As a result, CBEEN, with the support of KBEE, C2C, EEPSA and Columbia Basin Trust, has committed to hosting a series of leadership clinics to further enhance the capacity of this group to undertake key actions leading to positive change in their school districts. 

These partnerships were further solidified, and the C2C Network formally launched, when CBEEN, KBEE, C2C and EEPSA played host to the 2018 Canadian Environmental Education ‘Classrooms to Communities’ Conference. CBEEN, KBEE, Wildsight and Columbia Basin Trust have each recently received Canadian Awards of Excellence for their support for environmental education in this region. 

With CBEEN providing support and resources, EEPSA working directly with and for teachers, KBEE supporting school district staff and leading alongside their teachers, a host of environmental education organizations providing programs, and C2C engaging and advocating at the provincial level, the resulting circle of support for environmental education in these corners of Southeast British Columbia has proven very powerful. Collectively, we have greatly enhanced opportunities for educators to undertake environmental education as an effective tool to teach across the curriculum. We are now moving beyond active development, and into a phase of nurturing this system of support. We are tracking the longer term impact of this work as a means of further supporting student success, and enhancing environmental stewardship and sustainability across this region, and beyond.

Feedback from Leadership Clinic participants

The CBEEN Leadership Clinic is an AMAZING opportunity to advance a project into action; network with other passionate and skilled professionals and personally benefit from linking into current research while effectively implementing planning models.

This has been, by far, the best teacher conference that I have attended in my 18 years of teaching!

The clinic was an amazing gift, not only for our district team to come together but also for cross-pollinating between districts and the region. This is pro-d that truly walks the talk and sets and incredible leadership example.

CBEEN created and organized an amazing opportunity to unify our team and significantly increase the efficiency of our objectives.

The CBEEN Leadership Clinic was an amazing opportunity to both network and develop our team goals. It was also highly informative in new and improved ways to increase the effectiveness of my environmental education program.

A wonderful mix of focussed, productive time and just the right amount of free time to digest the material, network with others and recharge.

The Leadership Clinic enabled our busy and fragmented group to collaborate, plan and put into action our goal. This would not have happened without this opportunity, and because of it we will be able to implement an important project across the Columbia Basin.

I would strongly urge any group seeking to strengthen their organization to attend the Leadership Clinic. The structure, pace and easily adapted activities were energizing and inspiring.

The Leadership Clinic is the best form of support we have experienced for non-profit organizations in my 21 years of experience!

The Leadership Clinic is exactly what we needed. With the skilled facilitators, amazing venue and well-crafted agenda and sessions, we were able to clarify goals and objectives as well as develop a tangible action plan for our project.

The collaborative opportunity to network with like-minded teachers has inspired me to “be the leader I have been waiting for”!

We got more accomplished in three days than a year of work. The experience supported and practiced the principles we try to teach. This was an invaluable opportunity for developing a much needed, effective, collaborative and strategic program.

This was the most insightful and inspiring workshop I have attended. The final result is an amazing framework and plan for the next several years of work.

The CBEEN Leadership Clinic is a program that draws the best out of individuals, team and an amazing environmental network

The 2015 EE Leadership Clinic was not only an amazing, inspiring and energizing professional development experience, but we also accomplished a lot which we can use to move forward in a practical manner.

The Leadership Clinic is invaluable! It gives the “front line” workers of EE the time, space and tools to focus on specific goals that will have positive impacts that ripple out at the community, regional, provincial and national levels.

What an incredible opportunity for anybody involved in the field of environmental education. The Leadership Clinic challenges you to deeply evaluate and understand your goals and objectives and sets you up to move forward in delivering the best possible program.

The gift of time to thoughtfully plan and develop as leadership groups is priceless.

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