Grade 11 Environmental Science – Improving the Experiential Experience and Exploring the Development of an Action-Based/Authentic Final Evaluation

Area(s) of Focus: well being, curriculum
Division(s): Senior
Level(s): Grade 11

This project involved collaboration between multiple schools in the HDSB in order to develop more experiential and action-based activities (including an authentic final task) for students in the Grade 11 environmental science course.

Environmental Science is an ever-changing and dynamic discipline.
The goal of this project was two-fold. The first goal was to collaborate with other teachers around the board teaching Grade 11 environmental science in order to develop a meaningful action-based final evaluation that would substitute the place of a traditional final exam.

In addition, environmental science in many instances is a hands-on field-based science. Consequently, the second goal of this project was to allow for the planning, development and execution of experiential opportunities for students with the hope of exposing students to various field studies in environmental science.

Logistically this can prove to be challenging and is therefore not always possible. Often, there is only one section of  SVN3M1  running at any one school, thereby making the cost of running such trips substantial and therefore restrictive. However, if as a board we organized an opportunity for environmental science students from different schools to attend simultaneously, we could perhaps mitigate the cost and thereby make such opportunities feasible.

Team Members

  • Farah Zaiyouna

    Halton District School Board

  • Scott Cates

    Halton District School Board

  • Kathryn Wheeldon

    Halton District School Board

  • Maria Boulougouris

    Halton District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • Access to release time among teachers from various schools
  • Sharing of existing resources for SVN3M1 – Grade 11 environmental science
  • Development and successful execution of final action-based authentic task for Grade 11 environmental science
  • Development and successful execution of experiential activities for students in Grade 11 environmental science

Activities and Resources

Sustainable Urban Design: Educator’s Toolkit for Project-Based Learning (2017)

Buck Institute for Education (2017)

High Tech High Student Projects

The Lifestyle Project (2017)

National Environmental Education Foundation Environmental Project-Based Learning (2017)

Albion  Hills Field Centre

Halton Waste Management Site

Water Purification Plants Burlington

Royal Botanical Gardens

Unexpected Challenges

All release time was well used. Occasionally co-ordinating peoples’ schedules proved challenging. However, this was overcome by utilizing video conferencing where necessary.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

Offering multiple experiential learning opportunities proved beneficial, as students had first-hand exposure to the outdoors. Learning opportunities included: testing water quality, forest studies, first-hand identification of invasive species and participating in citizen science bird surveys to name but a few. Such learning opportunities cannot be authentically replicated within the classroom, thus being able to co-ordinate these multi-school opportunities certainly enhanced student learning and development.

In addition, the development of an authentic task (replacing the final examination), also helped enhance student engagement and learning.  This authentic task offered students an opportunity to address a specific environmental issue of their choice. This issue was then researched and, with extensive conferencing with their teachers, an action plan was then developed and possibly executed. All work was then presented to the class, teacher and members of the community. Through this task, students were able to learn more about a pertinent topic that they were interested in, and then they were offered the opportunity to come up with solutions that could be used to address the issue.

Through the development of such a task, learning in environmental science became much more relevant and student-focused for the students.


The work done through this grant was shared with other science teachers at a subject-specific professional development session held by the HDSB. Interested teachers had the opportunity to sign up for this session. All resources (including the final authentic task) were shared at this session.

Project Evaluation

The goal of the project was two-fold:

  • Co-ordinate an overnight experiential opportunity for Grade 11 environmental science students between multiple schools in the HDSB
  • Develop and execute an authentic task that could replace the final examination in the course

The first goal was accomplished by planning and executing an overnight excursion to Albion Hills field centre. In addition, two other excursions were co-ordinated between the three schools: one to the Halton Waste Management Site and a second to the Royal Botanical Gardens.

The second goal was also successfully accomplished as the authentic task was developed and shared with students this second semester (2017/2018). This task has officially replaced the final exam for Grade 11 environmental science at the three participating HDSB schools.  However, at this point in time, students have not shared their final work (presentations) for the class or community members, and the final “exit” interviews which is also part of the overall task have not been conducted. Completion of these two components will prove to be integral in order to assess what changes or tweaks need to be made in order to be able to improve on the overall task for future years.

Resources Created

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