Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF)

LSF is a Canadian non-profit organization formed in 1991. Our mission is to promote, through education, the knowledge, skills, values, perspectives, and practices essential to a sustainable future.

Our Impact Why We Exist

LSF’s goal is to work together with educators, students, parents, government, community members and business leaders to integrate the concepts and principles of sustainable development into education policy, school curricula, teacher education, and lifelong learning across Canada.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Learning for a Sustainable Future is a Canadian charitable organization founded in 1991. LSF’s team is comprised of a strong Board of Directors, experienced staff and consultants from across the country, and graduate and undergraduate researchers from leading Canadian universities.

Working with business, governments, school boards, universities, communities, educators, and youth across Canada, LSF acts as a connector, a resource, and a facilitator for change. 

LSF’s innovative programs and strategic partnerships are reshaping education policy and transforming learning methods, helping students address the increasingly difficult economic, social, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. This learning process is referred to as education for sustainable development (or ESD).

LSF facilitates the delivery of education for sustainable development programs and resources to teachers and students across Canada. In 2015, LSF reached over 250,000 Canadians through our programs.

LSF's core program strengths are linked in an Integrated Framework that includes four strategic priority areas:

  • Advancing Education Policy, Standards and Good Practice
  • Reorienting Teaching and Learning
  • Fostering Sustainable Communities - Linking Education to Action
  • Supporting Collaborative Initiatives, Networks and Champions

Accolades and Accomplishments

We are especially proud of our Resources for Rethinking (R4R) database which provides educators over 1,200 classroom resources, searchable by grade, subject, jurisdiction, and sustainability theme. Visit www.r4r.ca to learn more.

In 2015, LSF reached 78,575 educators from 103 school boards. We are also proud to have funded 114 school action projects which impacted 57,000 students. We have reached more than 254,000 students since 2012. 

Our Programs How We Do It

Through the action programs for youth, the development of classroom resources, the creation of the Resources for Rethinking (R4R) database, and the facilitation of Professional Development Institutes for teachers, LSF equips teachers with the necessary tools and programs to integrate Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into the classroom and empower our children to change the world.

Teacher Resources & Action Programs for Youth:

  • Resources for Rethinking (R4R): an online database of classroom-ready resources connecting curriculum outcomes to sustainability principles. (www.r4r.ca)
  • Step Outside: published two to three times per month, Step Outside is a compilation of seasonal happenings that can be used to bring nature into the  classroom
  • Professional Development Institutes: 1-, 2-, and 3-day workshops focusing on inquiry methodology and practical implementation of transformative learning strategies 
  • EcoLeague: a youth empowerment program that challenges and motivates students across the country to help save the planet through community- and school-based sustainability action projects
  • Our Canada Project (OCP): an innovative, interactive web platform through which young people are encouraged to articulate their vision for a more sustainable Canada, undertake action projects to achieve their vision, and share their stories with others. (www.ourcanadaproject.ca).

Resources for Rethinking (R4R)

Resources for Rethinking (R4R.ca) is an online database where educators can search for the highest quality, peer-reviewed, curriculum-matched teaching resources on issues related to the development of an environmentally, socially, economically, and culturally sustainable society. The R4R database identifies hundreds of lesson plans, outdoor activities, children’s literature, and videos that teachers can use to facilitate engaging activities related to sustainability issues. In 2016 we are delivering webinars to introduce even more educators to the database, regardless of their location.

Funding and Program Partners

Resources for Rethinking is a collaborative initiative made possible thanks to the expertise and financial support generously donated by partner organisations such as 3M Canada, 3M Global, Biodiversity and Education Awareness Network, BMO Financial Group, BV02, Glencore, Hewlett-Packard Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan, RBC Foundation, Suncor Energy, and TD Friends of the Environment.

Program Impact

Resources for Rethinking (R4R) has impacted many teachers and students by providing a database of over 1,200 classroom resources to help educators connect ESD concepts to their curriculum requirements. This helps teachers improve consciousness and learning around environmental, social, economic, and cultural sustainability across all subjects and levels.

In the 2015/2016 school year, R4R has had 14,823 Toronto visits to its website.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

  • "Education is broader than numeracy and literacy - it is about acquiring a set of tools that allow us to bounce back from crisis." (2011 Report).
  • “Teachers are reporting that more distracted classrooms, caused by larger class sizes, are affecting their ability to teach.” (2015 Report)
  •  “All students in Canada would benefit from a deeper understanding of the history of the many nations that have influenced and comprise this country and a better understanding of aboriginal cultures, perspectives, and experiences.” (2015 Report)
  • “[Schools] are not only preparing students for career and life success, but also teaching them how to be responsible citizens.” (2015 Report)

The R4R database simplifies the implementation of ESD in the classroom for teachers, saving time with our collection of curriculum-connected and peer-reviewed resources. R4R resources emphasize the need for real-world learning in all subjects that is informed by cultural and historical knowledge, preparing students to meet global challenges now and in their future endeavours.

Participant Vignette

“The layout is seamless to prepare for lesson and subsequently to implement.”

“I use it both for developing new programs and to see if there are new activities or better ways to teach subject materials.”

“This is a great search engine - we now recommend it as a top resource for our educators to use.”

- comments from R4R users

Step Outside

Step Outside, accessed through R4R, is a compilation of seasonal happenings across the country that can be used to bring nature into the classroom and students outdoors. They are perfect for Toronto educators to teach their urban students that nature is all around them! The guides detail specific flora, fauna and climate events, which are often taking place just outside the classroom. The guides also include recommended R4R resources to make connections to the curriculum and provide lesson plans to extend the learning possible with nature experiences.

Funding and Program Partners

LSF would like to acknowledge the efforts of the staff of the Biodiversity Section at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for creating the Step Outside Nature Guides. 

Program Impact

Step Outside has impacted many teachers and students and has allowed students to experience learning outside of classroom. In the last year, we have had 2,862 visitors from Toronto and over 20,000 visitors overall to the Step Outside website.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

  • "Sustainable accessible nature is absolutely central to Toronto's urban environment and uniqueness as a livable urban metropolis. The act of greening and caring for these spaces changes people and inspires communities." (2011 Report).
  • “A new study from Ryerson University explores the positive effects on children’s physical health of being given freedom to explore places within their neighbourhoods.” (2015 Report)
  • “Only 7% [of Toronto students] are meeting Canada’s physical activity guidelines for youth.” (2015 Report)

Step Outside supports teachers to show their students the natural world that lies just outside the school doors and in the local neighbourhood. The experience of learning outdoors can be more active and engaging for students. It also allows them to grow an appreciation for nature, so that they will grow to be responsible citizens who are motivated to protect and care for their environment.

Participant Vignette

"The late November Step Outside arrives and as a habit I read sections to my grade 2 students as they sit around and watch the pictures as I make the links. One line stands out "Gray squirrels are now making their dreys." Clicking on the word drey brings up a photograph of a leaf nest with a squirrel in it. New word for me and the kids.

The next day after lunch we plan our squirrel survey. We walk the perimeter of the school yard counting dreys that are visible and squirrels and observing any behavior. Even I am amazed at the scope of what this little outing has revealed."

- grade 2 teacher on his experience with the Step Outside program

Professional Development

LSF’s Professional Development Institutes provide educators with the strategies, tools and resources to engage their students in addressing the increasingly complex economic, social, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. LSF’s Professional Development Institutes model transformational learning strategies including student led inquiry, learning locally, real-world connections, considering alternative perspectives, acting on learning, integrated learning, and sharing responsibility for learning with students. Our unique professional inquiry methodology builds on the learning needs of the educators present, the experiences and expertise they bring, and the formation of a community of learners with common insights.

Funding and Program Partners

Professional development institutes are developed and facilitated by LSF consultants who are all educators and have in-classroom experience. Many of our workshops are presented in partnership with Natural Curiosity, an organization out of The Laboratory School at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study at OISE. Sponsors for institutes vary, but include 3M Canada, 3M Global, Glencore, TD Friends of the Environment, and others.

Program Impact

In 2015, LSF held 38 workshops for over 1,700 participants in 6 provinces across Canada. In the GTA alone, there were 9 workshops for over 250 educators, with 3 more planned for summer 2016.  

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

  • "Education is broader than numeracy and literacy - it is about acquiring a set of tools that allow us to bounce back from crisis." (2011 Report).
  • “[Schools] are not only preparing students for career and life success, but also teaching them how to be responsible citizens.” (2015 Report)

In order to extend beyond traditional knowledge transfer and equip students to meet global challenges, education must take a transformative approach, using inquiry and experiential learning to support students in building knowledge and taking on challenges together. Our inquiry workshops prepare teachers to bring this transformative learning into their classrooms while meeting provincial curriculum requirements and ensuring students have the knowledge they need for the future. 

Participant Vignette

"Your workshops have a very different approach than other workshops I have attended because within the workshop we are following the Inquiry model and, like our students, we are more engaged in our learning! Thank you." - Toronto Institute participant

"The institute had me thinking in ways I hadn't before in my 15 years of teaching. The approaches just seemed to make sense. After returning to my classroom and applying some of the methods I had learned, I saw my student’s interest and engagement increase." - Halifax Institute participant

"I wish I had been exposed to these ideas at the beginning of my career.  I feel like I have had a big ah ha moment!  I hope that someday we will all teach this way." - Winnipeg Institute participant

EcoLeague

EcoLeague focuses on youth as the drivers of change and leaders of tomorrow. Through EcoLeague, students are engaged in linking what they have learned to action projects that provide a real context for understanding sustainability issues in their community. Undertaking action projects allows youth to understand that they do have the ability to bring about positive and significant change in their schools and communities.

EcoLeague, accessed through R4R, provides "recipe kits" for both the elementary and secondary level, funding for schools to undertake the action projects, and full-day Youth Forums that inspire youth and their teachers with hands-on action project ideas that they can undertake in their schools and communities. Teachers can also sign up to have LSF and volunteers deliver one of our action projects at their school.

Funding and Program Partners

Our partner organizations include 3M, Loblaw Companies Limited, Glencore and RBC Foundation.

Program Impact

EcoLeague funded 24 sustainability action projects in the Greater Toronto Area in 2015/2016, providing $8,085 in funding to make their action projects a reality, effecting change in their school or local community. By engaging in sustainability action projects, the students learn to be responsible citizens, making connections between their actions and consequences for others including their friends, family, neighbourhoods, country and planet. The deeper understanding of the world that they gain makes their learning more engaging, resulting in experiences that they'll remember for a lifetime.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

  • "Civic engagement means strong leadership and builds inclusive cities. Involved, connected and engaged residents from all walks of life make for creative communities and a stronger city.” (2011 Report)
  • “Almost seven in 10 Torontonians and 8 in 10 youth feel a strong sense of belonging to their local community—but only half of young adults feel the same” (2015 Report)

EcoLeague seeks to improve on these numbers by providing teachers and students (grades K-12) with action project ideas and funding which inspire them to take action and make their community more sustainable. By being engaged in real-world issues at school, they learn that they can also take actions on their own, and be leaders to build more sustainable, inclusive and diverse neighbourhoods for a stronger city.

Participant Vignette

“The students organized a grade 7/8 Don River clean-up in January with two other schools. Another clean-up was done in February, and on Earth Day, we helped organize a whole school clean-up of the Cabbagetown and Regent Park Community. We approached local businesses for donations for materials, explaining the role they were playing in protecting the river. At the end of the clean-up, litter was sorted into garbage, recycling, water bottles, and cigarette butts. Each category was weighed and recorded.

We collected roughly 31 bags of garbage. The engagement of the students was very high and as a result ended up very good!”

- grade 7/8 teacher at Sprucecourt Public School in downtown Toronto

Our Canada Project (OCP)

The Our Canada Project (OCP) was the brain child of a diverse group of 22 youth from across Canada.  These youth were brought together for 48 hours to figure out how to inspire all youth from every area in Canada to be more responsible citizens. The answer: give youth a chance to share their voice and they will take action.  And so, the Our Canada Project was born.

Youth are encouraged to use this space to share with all Canadians the work they are doing, big or small, individually or collectively, to make Canada a better place. Youth are asked: what is your vision for a better Canada? And what are you doing to make it come true?

In 2016, LSF is also offering OCP Youth Leadership Forums, full-day events for secondary students and teachers focusing on sustainability, leadership, and skill development.

Funding and Program Partners

OCP is supported by the RBC Foundation.

Program Impact

Since 2012, over 350 action projects have been posted to the web platform from 12 provinces and territories. Each of these projects has a demonstrated impact on at least one of the four areas of sustainability: environmental, social, economic, and cultural. Projects range in subject and scale, from planting pollinator gardens at school to travelling to Canada’s North to learn from indigenous leaders. LSF, in partnership with the RBC Foundation, also offers an annual award recognizing outstanding projects on the website. Through this award, $12,000 has been awarded to schools and community groups to support further action projects.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

  • “Almost seven in 10 Torontonians and 8 in 10 youth feel a strong sense of belonging to their local community—but only half of young adults feel the same” (2015 Report)
  • “Research shows a high correlation of sense of community belonging with physical and mental health” (2015 Report)
  • “Citizenship education matters if we are going to turn around growing youth disengagement.” (2015 Report)

By encouraging youth who are acting as “change agents” in their communities to share their visions, the Our Canada Project inspires other youth across the country to take action. Educators and students alike can learn from the successes and challenges of others, and experience the power of active citizenship firsthand, preparing them to meet global challenges head-on in the future.

Participant Vignette

“I think the program is fantastic and gets the kids thinking about and actually making change in their communities.” – Gr 4/5 Teacher

“My students are passionate about [their project] and committed to making a difference in the world :)” – Gr 5 Teacher

What You Can Do

R4R (Resources for Rethinking)

Activities a donation will support

Investment in this program will improve the capacity of governments, businesses and non-profit organizations to get their resources into the hands of classroom teachers by allowing us to add new resources for the Resources for Rethinking (R4R) website and database. It will also support the addition of new kinds of resources, such as apps and podcasts.

Funding will also be used towards marketing R4R in order to inform more teachers about this easily accessible and useful resource. As well, webinars can continue to be offered expanding our reach to educators in remote communities. Financial support will also be used to continue to improve the functionality of the website, such as improving the search options.

Donation impact

The resources and programs on R4R allow teachers to quickly and easily incorporate sustainability learning into their classrooms, bringing sustainability issues to their students' minds and giving them the chance to learn in new and engaging ways. The resources are stringently reviewed for multidisciplinary teaching and environmental and social contexts, among other things, which have been shown to increase engagement of underrepresented groups including girls, racialized youth, and FNMI students. With financial support, Learning for a Sustainable Future will be able to provide even more high-quality teacher resources to a greater number of educators, which will allow teachers and students to more easily teach and learn with a sustainability lens. 

Step Outside

Activities a donation will support

Financial support allows us to keep updating the tri-monthly guides with current information and new observations. With additional funding, we would improve each Step Outside guide by providing an activity in each that can be done directly in the school yard, supporting teachers in taking students outside. We are also considering the development of a calendar page which allows teachers to plan out the year of nature activities in advance.

Funding would also be used to spread the word about the resource to more teachers, as well as outdoor education centres, and daycares, which can also use the resource for programming.

Donation impact

With financial support, Learning for a Sustainable Future will be able to continually provide teachers with resources to make the learning environment more enticing, local, and relevant for students as they experience what is just outside their classroom. 

Professional Development

Activities a donation will support

Funding for professional development helps us to bring more institutes to more communities and help even more educators to explore inquiry, transformative learning, and outdoor education with their classrooms. As educators strive to prepare their students to meet today's challenges, the demand for inquiry workshops is growing. Financial support helps us to meet this demand, equipping more teachers with the tools to support their students in becoming responsible, active, and engaged citizens.  

Donation impact

With students in school for the majority of their time, educators are some of the greatest influencers of the next generation. By supporting our inquiry institutes, you will be a part of a shift towards learning that is transformative, participatory, active, and connected to the real world. 

EcoLeague

Activities a donation will support

Funding for EcoLeague will fund more action projects in Toronto and across the country. Funding can be targeted to specific communities. We host EcoLeague Youth Forums, one day conferences inspiring youth and their teachers with hands-on action project ideas that they can undertake in their school and community. With additional funding, we can also provide in-school action days, where LSF volunteers can present one of our action projects in-class. 

Donation impact

Through EcoLeague, your financial support goes directly to funding sustainability action projects led by youth who want to make change in their community - from sprucing up a barren schoolyard to helping those less fortunate in their city. You can also support Action Days to allows students and teacher to experience one of our action projects in-class.

Financial support also helps us to run our EcoLeague Youth Forums, which provide a professional development opportunity for teachers alongside a full day of workshops for students run by local sustainability organizations. Students and teachers alike come away from the Youth Forums inspired and fully equipped to take on an action project of their own!

Our Canada Project

Activities a donation will support

Funding for Our Canada Project allows us to continue to recognize and support outstanding student-driven sustainability action projects with funding and awards. Financial support will also be put towards initiatives to inspire and engage youth, such as our OCP Youth Leadership Forums -- full-day conferences for students and teachers focused on sustainability, leadership, and skill development. Website improvements are also a priority, including search improvements, featured projects, and user-friendliness.

Donation impact

With financial support, Learning for a Sustainable Future will be able to continue to showcase the incredible impact of youth on the sustainable future of Canada, and we will be able to extend our reach to inspire even more young people to become change agents. Funding will also support our OCP Youth Leadership Forums in Toronto, which link secondary students with inspiration youth in their local communities, prepare them to undertake action projects, and equip them with essential skills for school, careers, and life. 

Contact

Elaine Rubinoff
Director of Programs and Administration
416.327.2032
Charitable Number: 135549517RR0001

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