The Experience of Ontario Teacher Candidates who care for the Environment: Seeking Ways to Define, Integrate, and Support Teacher Candidates' Passion and Activism for Food and the Environment into Their Pre-Service Learning
Campigotto, Rachelle Marie
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A qualitative study of 13 teacher candidates (TCs) involved in and passionate about environmental issues was conducted. This study explored how activist TCs developed their identity as learning teachers who want to incorporate environmental education into their pedagogy. An understanding of how TCs defined food literacy (FL) and environmental education (EE), activism, as well as the supports they needed to be EE educators in their practice teaching and learning was explored. The Ontario Ministry of Education has policies to support the integration of EE into the curriculum to create good stewards of the community and environment. While this is an admirable goal, TCs typically receive little-to-no exposure or training in EE during their pre-service education due to time constraints and lack of expertise. Limited time and resources, a lack of knowledge of EE, minimal support from parents and administrators, inadequate access to appropriate space serve as the primary barriers faced by established teachers. These difficulties are pervasive, influencing successful integration of EE into the K-12 curriculum, post-secondary environment, and even within the teacher education curriculum. TC feared that a focus on environmental education, and a discussion of their activism, could be viewed as radical or controversial. This fear lead to a tendency to downplay their passion or discount it entirely. This research also considered how FL and knowledge of food issues might be used by teachers to make connections within EE. TCs had a limited understanding of FL defining it by nutritional aspects or origin of food. Others had not heard of the term. TCs who had a more nuanced understanding of FL, which includes aspects of equity and justice, garnered this knowledge from personal experience. TCs were critical of how schools limited learning about food to an emergency solution to hunger. More support on how to use food as an integrative tool was desired. Ultimately, TCs felt that EE and FL were not valued either in their post-secondary academic programs or within their teaching placements. Some TCs expressed a desire for more space to discuss their activist experiences, to make connections within and amongst communities of teachers, and to share ideas and resources. Formal education, supplemented with informal discussions via a community of teachers devoted to EE was a viable way to make an integrated curriculum possible.