Thought Leaders Forum Presentations and Summaries

This page is dedicated to presentations and results of the Thought Leaders Forum on Environmental and Energy Education and Sustainability. 

Presentations (Calgary)


Presentations (Edmonton)


Key Findings (Calgary and Edmonton combined)

Answers to Key Questions

We asked participants to reflect on three key questions and share their answers with us.  Here's a summary of what they told us: 

1) Why is energy and environmental education important?

  • To make learning relevant through real-world experiences
  • To fulfill our obligation to future generations and to create a sustainable future.
  • To develop lifelong skills, including: leadership, innovation, problem-solving, and creativity.  
  • To reconnect our students with nature to increase understanding of the land and resources
  • To reconnect our students with nature to increase mental health, physical health, and well-being
  • To teach students new skills and competencies that will allow them to succeed in a changing energy future
  • To teach students how to be engaged local and global citizens.


2) What does success look like? 

  • Seeing students who are engaged, empathetic and empowered become agents of change in their communities
  • Breaking down barriers to taking students outdoors and participating in energy and environmental education
  • A thorough understanding of best practices and improved method of delivering environment and energy education
  • Seeing environmental and energy education fully integrated into the curriculum
  • A cultural shift in schools, where environmental stewardship becomes the new norm


3) How do we get to success?

  • Increase professional development opportunities for teachers and pre-service teachers
  • Overcome barriers through policy changes
  • Work collaboratively, strengthening partnerships with organizations and communities
  • Share and celebrate our accomplishments with one another
  • Think big and start small- just start somewhere.


Next Steps: What Can ACEE and Partners Do? 

We asked participants to prioritize, using a 'dot' exercise, key actions to help education leaders advance student learning around the environment and energy and/or to help green the school infrastructure.  Here's a summary of the results!    

Strongest Support:

  • Create a made-in-Alberta ‘how to’ guide for greening the school infrastructure that would draw on examples from Alberta schools to provide a list of best practices, lessons learned and funding sources.  (32 dots)
  • Make presentations at education leader meetings (e.g. CASS, ASBA, etc.). (19 dots)

Strong Support:

  • Conduct a teacher needs assessment to determine how best to support the development of competencies in environmental and energy education. (11 dots)
  • Work with individual school divisions to advance environmental and energy education (e.g. on-site workshops or ongoing mentoring programs).  (11 dots)
  • Conduct a second Thought Leaders Forum one year from now. 10 dots
  • Update a list of existing school or school division policies in support of environmental and energy education and sustainability for use as models for new policies. (9 dots)
  • Create an environmental education and sustainability certification program for schools, with different levels that schools could aspire to (e.g. bronze, silver, gold).  (9 dots)


Moderate Support:

  • Facilitate a field trip for superintendents to help build an appreciation for our natural ecosystems and provide a unique and inspiring networking opportunity.  (6 dots)
  • Connect education leaders with organizations that can assist schools in greening their school infrastructure. (6 dots)
  • Showcase success stories of environmental and energy education or infrastructure greening via: a monthly newsletter, website, webinars, or short videos. (5 dots)
  • Create and facilitate communities of practice around topics of interest.  (4 dots)
  • Attempt to change the environmental dialogue during the upcoming provincial elections - politicize the environment in a way that allows for whatever winning party to continue to invest in sustainability (additional suggestion from participant).  (3 dots)
  • Ensure, if this is important, that this is infused in all new curriculum K-12 as well as included in provincial framework plan (additional suggestion from participant). (3 dots)
  • Host monthly webinars or themed discussions, featuring invited experts.  (2 dots)


Weak Support:

  • Work with interested school divisions and/or professional polling companies to evaluate students’ environmental and energy literacy and engagement (attitudes, awareness,  knowledge, readiness to act). (1 dot)
  • Capitalize on what's out there already; no need to create new (additional suggestion from participant).  (1 dot)
  • Connect educators with energy companies or experts (additional suggestion from participant).  (1 dot)
  • Produce short white papers, summaries, or literature reviews to help answer critical questions. (0 dots)
  • Create an energy literacy stream in conferences run by associations that support the learning of school board trustees and superintendent teams. (0 dots)
  • (Continue to) provide opportunities for our students to lead/teach us adults (additional suggestion from participant). (0 dots)
  • Media relations to showcase success stories (increase dialogue) (additional suggestion from participant). (0 dots)
  • Programs for pre-service teachers (additional suggestion from participant) (0 dots)

Next Steps: Commitments from Education Leaders

We asked education leaders to make individual commitments toward advancing environmental and energy education and sustainability in their schools or school divisions.  Here's a list of these commitments:


Commitments that would result in increased student learning:

  • Update website to reflect good news/sustainability stories
  • Apply for EEA education grant
  • Continue to take students outside to inspire them
  • Engage with board and key persons who are linked to curriculum development and programming
  • Promotion of environmental and energy education
  • Stay in touch with ACEE to share opportunities for teacher learning, and look at opportunities to partner
  • Speak to junior high and high school students regarding interest and their ideas moving forward.
  • Testimonial of the students from Fort McMurray.
  • Make students and staff aware of how we can all help to improve things we do that can help the environment.
  • People for Energy and Environmental Education (PEEL) to be more known as a resource for teachers so energy and environmental literacy is more accessible.
  • Go to leaders’ group to promote more project-based [learning] in environmentalism.
  • Incorporate awareness of environmental stewardship into existing programs and projects.
  • Create student blogs to advertise some of the great things they are doing.
  • Brand new school in our division.  I will ask: How cutting edge is it as an energy efficient building?
  • Create PD opportunities.
  • Go back and share the information with other staff and students.  Hopefully inspire others.
  • Invite our high schools to connect with Fort McMurray students to talk about joint work.
  • Share work with administrators.


Commitments that would result in improvements to school infrastructure:

  • Share information with other school superintendents
  • Identify how my organization could become a leader in environmental education
  • Find partners from business/industry
  • Identify champions individuals who can help
  • Look for and apply for related grants
  • LED lighting in all of our schools (annual budget + do as many as we can)
  • Investigate purchase of one to three hybrid buses per year (# depending on cost/grants)
  • Work on enhancements in school building to be “greener”
  • Review current policy and actions being done to keep and advance further green initiatives in our schools
  • Take to committee of the whole for discussion.
  • Traffic calming - student group - how to get kids to walk to school.
  • Introduce all of my active school travel schools to People for Energy and Environmental Literacy (PEEL) to increase environmental stewardship.


Commitments that would result in student learning AND improvements to school infrastructure:

  • Look at what my school board can do to better support environmental and energy education throughout our school division, without overwhelming education centre staff and teachers
  • Complete our latest phase of our sustainable development project by writing a grant
  • Attempt to create a CTS course that involves building green, low-emissions or net-zero buildings
  • Advocate for support for government - multiple ministries - to support through funding, curriculum, and planning initiatives, programs to support land based learning + environmental education 
  • Have conversation with school board on importance of environmental education
  • Engage with stakeholders on what we can do better to support our schools and communities
  • Communicating with educators what facilities (personnel) are doing to  support environmental and energy education. Once understood, have educators communicate that information to students.
  • Bring ACEE to jurisdiction PD for teachers.
  • Board conversation about path forward in the environmental energy area.
  • If certification programs are developed, schools will be incented to ‘go for the gold’.
  • Dedicate staff to grant writing for environmental education.
  • Create buildings that teach a priority - how do we change provincial infrastructure funding & regulations to allow us to build/modernize to support environmental and energy education as part of 21st century learning?
  • Develop a framework for a board policy on environmental stewardship, but acknowledge what is already being done and encourage calculated risk taking.
  • Review Admin Procedure and consider writing board policy regarding environmental and energy education.
  • Continue conversation with mayor and council about recycle bins for schools.
  • Incorporate basics of developing a natural love and connection with the environment through the curriculum.
  • Become more familiar with what schools are presently doing and build from there.
  • Develop a board policy on environmental stewardship.
  • Work on developing a better system to share success stories that will help connect/encourage teachers.
  • Assessing teacher needs to provide support would be a wonderful use of ACEE.