The Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) is cutting funding that supports the operational success of non-profits which deliver environmental education in the region, causing local educators to speak up and encourage community members to make their voices heard.
Local educators and environmentalists are urging residents to attend the CBT’s Open House and Community Conversation on April 24 to voice their concerns for the future of environmental education in Revelstoke.
“How can we support environmental well-being if we’re not educating on it?” said Jade Berrill, an environmental educator who has worked extensively with local youth.
According to Berrill, the CBT has been funding local and regional environmental education for well over a decade. The decision to cut funding stemmed from the public consultation that the CBT undertook digitally in 2020.
“People were so stressed with worrying about loved ones, reading the news about COVID, I don’t think they really got an adequate representation of what people feel,” said Berrill. She added that residents who she has interacted with said they were ‘shocked’, ‘devastated’, and ‘frustrated’ when they heard that the CBT was going to cut funding to environmental education programs.
Previously, the CBT’s environmental education network supported programs in schools across the region to help offer education in a wide range of programs related to the environment such as Indigenous language courses, climate education, stewardship, watersheds, nature connection, community-based water monitoring, and kids summer camps.
Berrill noted that the CBT funding makes up for more than half of the funding that these programs need to run.
“It will absolutely, and has already, mean a decrease in the number of programs that are offered, especially in isolated communities,” said Berrill.
A study completed by experts at Stanford University provided clear positive impacts for children and youth who are getting involved in environmental education initiatives.
In addition to learning about the natural world, studies also showed that the learning led to improved academic performance, enhanced critical thinking skills, and developed confidence, autonomy, and leadership.
“We are at a critical moment of change, of disruption to natural patterns, of addiction to technology,” said Berrill. She added that 90 per cent of youth are spending five hours or more per day in front of screens per day, and that outdoor learning and education programs are one of the key ways to give children access to more time outside.
“Whether it’s learning, exploring, or just connecting, connecting with the complexity and beauty of the natural world is incredibly important,” she said.
The Open House will take place at the Revelstoke Community Centre from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. where residents can fill out the CBT survey and share their thoughts. A guided conversation will take place in the evening from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
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