Dr. Connie Russell Named Lakehead University Research Chair in Environmental Education

Dr. Connie Russell (Professor, Faculty of Education, Thunder Bay campus) has been named the Lakehead University Research Chair in Environmental Education. The adjudication committee noted that Dr. Russell is “an established scholar who has made major impacts in the field” and lauded her national and international reputation, publication record, editing work, and outstanding record of graduate student supervision. They also appreciated “the social importance and timeliness” of the research project she proposed on humour and environmental education.

As Dr. Russell notes: “Doom-and-gloom discourse is unfortunately quite common in environmental circles. That can leave learners feeling overwhelmed, so it is no wonder that some tune out or retreat in despair. There has been a surge of interest in the emotional dimensions of environmental education recently, but thus far the possibilities and pitfalls of using humour have received little attention in the field. There are many questions worth exploring, including why, when, where, and how environmental educators choose to use humour and what impacts it may have on teaching and learning, mental health, and environmental engagement.” She is currently collaborating with colleagues on a special issue of the journal, Environmental Education Research, that is focusing on humour. It has garnered interest from scholars, cartoonists, and comedians from around the world, and she hopes it will feed a number of research and teaching partnerships.

Dr. Russell says, “I am grateful to have been awarded a LU Research Chair since it gives me more time to focus on research as well as some funding that can be used to employ graduate students as research assistants.” 

BEd Student Michael Chen Competes in International “Climate Change-Makers Challenge”

Michael Chen, OCT (BEd student, Orillia campus) was part of a team that developed a climate change solution—entitled “Food Forests for All”—that won the “Best of the Rest” prize in the Grand Finals portion of the international Climate Change-Makers Challenge Hackathon.

The Hackathon event took place in February and March, when over 120 youth from across 15 countries and 5 continents came together at the Climate Change-Makers Challenge to build innovations to fight climate change. Each team worked over 48 hours to brainstorm, research, build, and present solutions to address climate change, and the top 12 teams were invited to the grand finals.

Michael, along with three teammates from Dalhousie University, Stanford University, and Rutgers University–New Brunswick, developed an educational website that provides resources and information on starting food forests, emphasizing Indigenous methods to help preserve the environment.

In their five-minute video pitch, Michael explains that transporting food over long distances contributes to higher carbon emissions. The team’s solution is to connect people to mobilize and start their own carbon sequestering food forests locally, while minimizing barriers such as the lack of access to space and funding, and a knowledge gap when it comes to Indigenous gardening practices.

The team’s prototype website outlines the potential of food forests to address climate change, including a guide to develop food forests and the required resources. It also features an interactive Impact Map, identifying Indigenous lands throughout Canada and a mapping of established, in progress, and proposed regions for food forests. The team plans to create a new website which will become a platform to connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge keepers and those interested in starting a food forest.

Michael Chen

Dr. Sonia Mastrangelo Receives Grant to Explore Well-Being Among Residents of Camphill Communities Ontario

With the support of a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant, Dr. Sonia Mastrangelo (Associate Professor, Orillia campus) is undertaking a qualitative study to explore the lived experiences of adults with developmental disabilities living in a care farm setting.

Lakehead University has established a partnership with Camphill Communities Ontario, a not-for-profit organization that provides adult-centered residential programs for adults with developmental disabilities. The property, located in Angus, Ontario, is home to a biodynamic farm, garden, herbery, bakery, pottery studio, woodworking shop, and performance hall, and offers day programs, arts and crafts, artistic and wellness activities, and social and cultural opportunities for residents.

Sonia explains that the study will document well-being among the adult residents of Camphill Communities Ontario, and will closely examine the potential benefits and impacts of engaging in a broad range of activities, including farming, animal care, gardening, maple tree syrup collection/production, woodworking, baking, and pottery. The research will proceed using a community-based participatory action research model.

“Using a video-based observation research approach coupled with video-elicitation interviews, the research will honour the voices of marginalized adults (namely, those with developmental disabilities) in the research process and document well-being and outcomes from their perspective. I will explore their experiences, including the impacts and benefits of being involved in farming and program activities in the care farm setting,” she notes.  

Her research project, titled An Exploration of Well-Being in Adults with Developmental Disabilities Residing at Camphill Communities Ontario, marks the first time that Camphill Communities Ontario has undertaken a systematic evaluation of the impacts of their programming during their 30+ years of operation.

The research findings will assist Camphill Communities Ontario with future program development, program expansion, services and policy development. As part of the one-year research project, a documentary will be created and shared with other not-for-profit organizations that provide day and residential services to individuals with exceptional needs.

Sharing Geography Teaching Strategies and Resources: Randy Wilkie

Randy Wilkie (Contract Lecturer, Thunder Bay campus, and retired high school Geography teacher) has a long history of developing and sharing Geography-related teaching strategies, resources, and experiences with pre-service teachers.

He explains: “Geography and teaching are a passion. When I was contemplating retiring as a high school teacher, I witnessed other retiring teachers emptying entire filing cabinets of lesson plans and other resources in the school dumpster. I thought this was such an ignoble end to a great career. While I was about to retire, I knew that I wasn’t really ready; I just needed new challenges. So, when the opportunity to continue my career opened at Lakehead, I brought my resources, strategies, and experiences along for the ride to share with budding teachers.”

In recent months, Randy has developed and shared teaching strategies in a variety of forms: via posters, conference presentations, and publications. Here are three of his recent professional contributions:

  • “North of Amazing” poster with teaching strategies (pictured below): Randy developed his 20th poster for the poster series of the Ontario Association for Geographic and Environmental Education. As OAGEE’s Regional Councilor for Northwestern Ontario, Randy develops annual posters that outline teaching strategies and activities, which he uses in his Faculty of Education teaching.
  • Tree Harvesting in the Boreal Forest: Inquiry and Thinking Skills book: Randy first developed this resource when he was teaching high school, and has perfected it over time. As part of the Forestry Series, this instructional guide for Geography teachers outlines an in-depth simulation activity in which students make decisions about tree harvesting in the boreal forest, using current logging practices within a context of profitability, sustainability, and environmental protection. In December 2020, Randy presented the simulation at the National Council for Geographic Education virtual conference.
  • “Is There a Cost to Living in a Cold Climate?” publication: This article, published in Interaction, an Australian Geography journal, outlines a comprehensive lesson plan to explore the costs of living in the Arctic region, including health, transportation, building design, construction and food costs. Randy notes: “As a member of the Geography Teachers Association of Victoria (AU), I thought, what better than to give the Aussies a perspective of what it is like to live in a northern nation."

Randy’s dedication to promoting geographic literacy among his students has been recognized through the OAGEE Award of Distinction, and his status as a Fellow of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

Pictured below: Randy and his “North of Amazing” poster.

January Issue of Faculty Newsletter Published

The January issue of our Education Exchange newsletter has been published. This newsletter brings our current and former students, as well as our educational partners, together to share news, successes, and innovations. In this issue, you'll find discussion of the move to online teaching, alumni profiles, faculty news, and more.

To access our Education Exchange newsletter, click the following link: 

Education Exchange Newsletter (January 2021)

To see previous issues of the newsletter, visit the newsletter archives.

Dr. Gerald Walton Discusses Rape Culture, Politics, and Bullying in Online Interview

In an interview with the Centre for Education, Law and Society at Simon Fraser University, Dr. Gerald Walton (Professor, Faculty of Education, Thunder Bay), discusses culture, and rape culture in particular, and the impact it has on law and policies affecting schools.

He addresses the importance of teaching about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in schools. He also discusses the relationship between bullying, culture, and social politics.

BEd Student Melena Hope Awarded Ontario College of Teachers Primary/Junior Scholarship

Congratulations to Melena Hope (PhD, BEd Primary/Junior teacher candidate, Orillia), who has been awarded the Ontario College of Teacher's Scholarship award for the Primary/Junior division! 

This OCT award is granted to individuals who “demonstrate a high level of preparedness for teacher education through examples of community involvement, background and life experiences.”

Melena, who has spent her whole life in education, received a BFA Honours degree at York University and then travelled abroad to obtain a MA and PhD in art history at the University of London, at the Courtauld Institute of Art in England. This was followed by a two-year post-doctoral fellowship.

As a mature student, Melena’s first career was teaching as a sessional and visiting lecturer at colleges within the University of London, and then as head of art history at Morley College in London, England. Her decision to embark on a new career came after she took time off to raise her children and was encouraged to work as an unqualified supply teacher within a local elementary school board. It was during this time that she realized her calling in life. She feels that teaching the youngest of students and fostering a love for knowledge at an early age is a profound responsibility that she finds greatly rewarding. For this reason, she decided to return to school as a mature student and pursue her vocation as an elementary school teacher within the Primary/Junior division in the Faculty of Education, maintaining Dean’s List status throughout her studies.  

In addition to her strong background in education, Melena has also volunteered and worked with children in various capacities, including teaching art lessons and contributing her time to her local parent council by painting a mural at a local school and co-ordinating fundraising initiatives, among other activities.

“I am humbled and honoured to have received this award from the Ontario College of Teachers. To be acknowledged by the professional body in my field has inspired me even more,” she says.

PhD Candidate Keri-Lyn Durant Interviewed on CBC Radio

PhD candidate, teacher, and death educator Keri-Lyn Durant was interviewed by CBC Radio on a segment entitled “Helping Children Walk with their Grief.”

The segment description notes that “whether we're grieving a loved one or grieving the lives we had before the pandemic, chances are we've all experienced grief in one way or another this year. And children are no exception. Keri-Lyn Durant tells us how we can help children walk with their grief.”

To listen to the six-minute interview, click here.

Students Create Unique Ecological Art Exhibit to Inspire Past, Present and Future Students

Students from the MEd Ecological Consciousness through Embodied Transformation class have created an interesting ecological art exhibit that they hope will spread positivity to current and future Lakehead students as well as alumni.

The project aimed to advocate ecological consciousness and demonstrate the relationship between humans and the natural world. Under the guidance of course instructor Dr. Thomas Puk, 17 students from diverse backgrounds created the exhibit to illustrate their insightful perspectives.

The project primarily involved creating an interactive exhibit composed of individual "petals" and the word “happiness” in six different languages (English, Mandarin, Korean, Hindi, Bangla, and Cornish). The exhibit parts are painted on high-density fibreboard, basically sawdust and glue – a good use of used material.

The stand is made from local cedar, lilac and honeysuckle, all of which were destined to be disposed. The frame edges are from a countertop made from local birch. The maps are out of date maps of the local area from the Geography department’s map library. The frame holding the fibreboard is leftover scraps of spruce. The students also used flyers, cardboard, leave pressings, leaves, and bark.

The exhibit includes sub-themes of ecological literacy and reciprocal relationships with natural processes. Through this project, students developed an emotional connection with nature, which they learned in their Master of Education course.

They did the project face to face on the Thunder Bay campus this fall, 100% of the time outside, or as they refer to it, Intree, a term that means outdoors.

Aparna Roy, one of the students from the class, said she learned a lot from the project.

“Essentially, the ecological sculpture project will be a bridge for alumni, current students, and future students at Lakehead University by showing them the equality and unity that we as humans have developed with nature.”

National Virtual Exhibition Showcases Artwork by Lakehead Students, Alumni, and Faculty Member Dr. Pauline Sameshima

Six Lakehead students and alumni who have worked with Dr. Pauline Sameshima (Professor and Canada Research Chair in Arts Integrated Studies)—and Dr. Sameshima herself—have had their research artwork accepted by the Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education for a juried national virtual exhibition, as part of a special issue on Learning and Teaching: Artful Narratives of Transformation.

This vibrant collection of 22 original works—with seven pieces coming from Lakehead University—offers a diversity of glimpses into the topic of teaching, learning, and transformation. Taken together, the works create a multi-textured, integrated depth of possibilities for considering our roles as teachers and learners in this time that cries out for large-scale transformations.

The six students/alum from Lakehead whose work is featured in the exhibit are: Robin Faye (MEd student), Emilee De Sommer-Dennis (MEd alumna), Holly Tsun Haggarty (PhD student), Tashya Orasi (PhD student). Barbara Benwell (Social Justice Studies student), and Mehdia Hassan (Social Justice Studies alumna).

A PDF of the exhibition can be viewed here.

Robin Faye, artist-researcher and MEd student, notes that “contemplating these compelling ideas may indeed inspire the sparks of hope and creativity we need right now.” 

Tashya Orasi, a student in Joint PhD in Educational Studies program, agrees. “I am excited that important discussions are happening about the potential for creativity to be a transformative force in the lives of teachers and students."

Below: an exhibition piece created by PhD student Holly Tsun Haggarty, called Complications.