Canada Target 18
By 2020, biodiversity is integrated into the elementary and secondary school curricula
- The number and proportion of jurisdictions that have integrated biodiversity into elementary and secondary curricula
About the Target
Youth education and awareness of biodiversity is essential if Canada is to grow its next generation of conservation and sustainable development leaders, mainstream biodiversity and meet its biodiversity conservation goals. Mainstreaming the understanding and importance of biodiversity will create a culture of appreciation, conservation, and action. This target emphasizes a key avenue for teaching Canada's youth about biodiversity, by integrating biodiversity into formal education.
Provincial and Territorial educational systems are the key vehicle for integrating biodiversity issues into the formal curriculum documents. Efforts are already underway in various institutions across the country. In Ontario, for example, integrating biodiversity into curricula for Kindergarten to Grade 12 is included as a target in the provincial Biodiversity Strategy.
In a 2014 scan of provincial and territorial governments, of the five provinces and territories reporting, all indicate that biodiversity has been integrated in the elementary and secondary school curricula and all indicate that biodiversity is a specific unit or theme within the curriculum. Biodiversity is taught primarily in the Science or the Science and Technology subject areas across all grade levels. Additionally, in several provinces, key biodiversity concepts weave through different grades in other subject areas including Art, Career and Technology Studies, Social Studies, Health and Physical Education and Music.
The Council of Ministers of Education offers another vehicle for encouraging the integration of biodiversity into elementary and secondary school curricula through, for example, their Pan-Canadian Education for Sustainable Development Framework for Collaboration and Action.
Integration into formal curricula is often supported by informal education at Canadian zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, National and Provincial parks, museums, outdoor education and environmental education centres and by organizations or programs focused on youth biodiversity education and awareness, such as Envirothon.
Canada Target 18 is linked with the following global Aichi target under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020:
- Aichi Target 1 - By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.
2018 Interim Progress Assessment
Canada is on track to meet Target 18. All 10 provinces and territories that participated in a 2018 survey reported that biodiversity values have been incorporated into elementary and secondary school curricula. Further, many reported that key concepts and terms related to biodiversity are taught across all grade levels.
Specific topics that were identified as part of school curricula include: the science of the diversity of life (e.g., habitats and communities); the role of living things within ecosystems (e.g., food webs); human impacts on biodiversity (e.g., invasive species and habitat loss); economic utility of biodiversity (e.g., ecosystem services); and, socio-cultural perspectives and the role of governments.
In addition to these classroom activities, governments across the country partner with a variety of non-governmental organizations in the design and delivery of education and awareness programs.
For example, through 3-year funding for Engaging Canadian Kids in Wildlife Conservation, Environment and Climate Change Canada is helping organizations to educate and engage children aged 6 to 12 about Canadian wildlife conservation, the protection of Canada’s biodiversity, and key threats to biodiversity such as climate change. In particular, this funding supports programming designed to: (1) increase kids’ knowledge and awareness of Canada’s wildlife, including threats to wildlife and habitat, and how to conserve and recover species at risk; (2) provide kids with opportunities to get involved in activities that help conserve nature; and (3) inspire kids to be active stewards of the natural world.
The Ontario Children’s Outdoor Charter aims to get children outside to discover and connect with the wonders of nature. The Charter is an awareness initiative that encourages children to explore and experience Ontario's biodiversity by participating in 12 recommended activities: follow a trail, explore a park, harvest something to eat, swim in a lake, paddle a canoe, play in the snow, build an outdoor fort, visit a farm, camp under the stars, go fishing, observe plants and wildlife, and create an outdoor adventure. It features an activity passport for kids to use to record their outdoor activities, and a poster to promote the initiative. The idea is that children who connect with nature grow up caring for the Earth and helping to conserve biodiversity.
Canadians have a high degree of awareness of the importance of nature. The 2014 report on results of the Canadian Nature Survey revealed that over 90% of Canadian adults were aware of specific ecosystem services that nature provides such as clean air and water, fertile soil, places for recreation, and pollination. In addition, 24% of Canadian adults – 6.4 million people – indicated that they participate in voluntary nature conservation activities, such as citizen science (when members of the general public participate in the collection and analysis of data).
A 2015 national public opinion poll found that 89% of Canadians agree that preventing the extinction of wild plants and animals in Canada is important. A separate poll of Canadian children ages 8-11 found that 85% of those surveyed said it was ‘very important’ to do things to protect the environment. Species extinction was identified by the majority of kids (69%) as the environmental issue of greatest importance to them.
Canada is also actively involved in a number of international initiatives related to Aichi Target 1. For example, Canada co-leads the global #NatureForAll initiative, which aims to build broad-based public and cross-sectoral support and action for biodiversity conservation around the world. #NatureForAll brings together more than 230 organizations focused on inspiring love, support, and action for biodiversity conservation around the world. #NatureForAll is based on the knowledge that personal experiences with the natural world provide powerful benefits for individual and societal health, well-being, and resilience; and, are the foundation for the lifelong support of and commitment to biodiversity conservation.