If you ask a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” it’s pretty likely that he or she might come up with one of the old standbys: firefighter, ballerina or astronaut. But if you ask that same child, “What do you want to DO when you grow up?” there’s a good chance that he or she might say something about wanting to help the environment.
From junior kindergarten, children are taught about the environment and what can be done to help our planet, but most children don’t often think about the possibilities of turning this desire to be green into a career.
With the environment top of mind among global and local leaders, the number and types of environmental science and sustainability-focused careers is rapidly expanding. In addition, many organizations are also realizing the importance of investing in young minds to create a well-equipped workforce that’s prepared to handle the environmental movement of tomorrow.
Educators are also being proactive and getting involved in various programs, like the Canon Envirothon, North America’s largest environmental competition, to encourage Canadian teens to pursue environmental studies and subsequent career paths, and reach young people who may not have understood what a rich and rewarding field environmental sciences could be. In 2011, more than 500,000 teens from across North America will participate in the Envirothon. Preparing months in advance by completing tests, doing research, and conducting experiments, these green teens will demonstrate that they’re capable of understanding, as well as solving, some of today’s most complex environmental issues.
One of the most rewarding aspects of these types of programs is how they affect the lives of young people like David Lawless. As a 14-year-old, David began participating in the Ontario Envirothon. He learned about the program through his grade nine environmental science teacher who suggested he join the school’s team. An Envirothon participant for four consecutive years, David discovered it was an opportunity to analyze and decipher key environmental problems with his peers, teachers and natural resource professionals. Now a university student, David remains active in the program as a valued volunteer at the Ontario Envirothon.
“The Envirothon has meant a great deal to me because it not only opened doors to a number of career and educational opportunities and exchanges, but it kick-started my interest in making a difference,” he said. “I firmly believe that education and raising awareness play a fundamental role in environmental sustainability.”
Currently, David is an ecology student at Guelph University, and has already founded the Global Changemakers Community Action Project, a program designed to help mitigate the effects of a changing climate on water ecosystems in local communities. David has worked with the Ministry of Natural Resources where he’s undertaken habitat restoration projects and conducted important research on climate change across Canada, and last summer, he worked at Parks Canada as a bilingual nature interpreter and biosphere researcher, leading hikes and doing studies on the ecology of the Niagara Escarpment. On top of this, in August 2009 David was also selected as one of only five international youth delegates to the United Nations World Climate Conference in Geneva where he worked with scientists, policymakers and ministers to formulate recommendations regarding the effects of climate change on biodiversity and natural resource management.
Hopefully with ambassadors like David telling their stories, it won’t be long before children add ecologist, bio-researcher and other environmental-focused careers to their list of future aspirations.
About the Envirothon
Ranging from grades 9 to 12, participants spend several months preparing for the regional, provincial and North American competitions, which test students’ knowledge of four primary environmental themes: aquatic ecology, soil, wildlife and forestry. As well, teens explore one topical issue each year— for the 2011 competition, students are examining Salt and Fresh Water Estuaries. From the provincial competitions, the winning school will move on and represent its province or territory at the Canon Envirothon, to be held next at Mt. Allison University in Sackville, NB from July 24 – 29, 2011. Competing for Canon scholarships, prizes and awards worth more than $125,000 USD, teams prepare and deliver oral presentations to panels of judges made up of foresters, soil scientists and wildlife experts. Each team is evaluated on their problem-solving capabilities, presentation skills and recommendations to help solve the specific environmental challenge presented during the competition.
Teachers interested in this program and looking for details on how to get involved can visit the website www.envirothon.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Senior Manager of Corporate Communications for Canon Canada, Wayne Doyle has been involved with the Envirothon since 2001.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s November 2010 issue.