19.1 Trends in field environmental education opportunities for youth

Last Updated: 
June 11, 2015

This indicator tracks the number and types of formal environmental education opportunities offered to youth in the NWT in natural settings. These opportunities may involve formal cooperative planning by organizations, communities, schools and others who are actively engaged in the promotion of environmental education. Increasing formal environmental education opportunities for youth should result in enhanced knowledge about current and future environmental issues.

Information on environmental and cultural camps was solicited from within ENR. Additional information on other opportunities was collected from organizations and agencies involved in education and the environment and the internet. The list of environmental education opportunities is not an exhaustive list. It will be updated regularly. 

NWT Focus

Environmental awareness should be influenced by opportunities for instruction or exposure to environmental knowledge. The availability of environmental education to youth can be measured in part by the number of environmental programs offered or number of participants.

As stewards of our environment, residetns have a responsibility to educate themselves about the importance of environmental sustainability and to pass it on to current and future generations. Formal environmental education opportunities increase people’s knowledge about the environment and actively engage them in the decision-making process.

As a part of our heritage, traditional on-the-land skills are important. A large proporation on NWT residents are involved in traditional activities (see renewable resource use). Involving youth in on-the-land activities helps them become aware of natural processes and acquire or enhance bush skills important to maintaing a strong connection with the land for current and future generations. Formal education opportunities are not the only way youth gain environmental knowledge in the North. Parents and communities have an important role to play in transferring knowledge about the environment, in particular traditional knowledge (TK). Formal education opportunities, as measured here, are offered in addition to these important family and community-based opportunities.

Current view: status

Formal Environmental Education

Many environmental education programs offered in the NWT provide a rich mix of opportunities to learn on-the-land traditional and scientific knowledge. Many of these programs are coordinated within regions and designed with community input to fit regional needs.

Formal environment/cultural camps are offered by the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT), including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR); Education Districts and individual schools; Renewable Resource Boards (RRBs) in all NWT regions; or, through cooperative efforts of some or all of these organizations.

Formal environmental education field opportunities offered in the NWT are designed for primary through college-level students. Currently, there are no university-level environmental field courses offered in the NWT.

Informal Environmental Education

Efforts to educate should, and do, go beyond traditional curriculum-based programming and formal education venues such as schools, camps and workshops. Each year, ENR is involved in a multitude of creative, innovative and informal education opportunities where people are not obligated to participate.

Environmental Publications

Providing staff to deliver unlimited live programs is a challenge in many communities as the various partners involved in delivery are often at capacity. This gap is met by a number of environmental publications developed and distributed by ENR and its partners.

Program Objective Regions/ecozones Organizers         Participation Years
Take a Kid Trapping Program Introduce youth to trapping and related on-the-land skills. All Regions
All Ecozones
ITI, ENR and RRBs Increasing from 386 to 1104 youth in 2006. 2003 - current
Tundra Science Camp Introduce high school students to ecological science, natural history and TK and to field skills in wildlife biology, botany, geology, and archaeology on the tundra. All Regions
ENR – Headquarters, with other scientists and Tlicho Elders 15-18 participants per year – maximum capacity of Daring Lake Research Station. 240 students to date 1995 – current
Dehcho Youth Ecology Camp Introduce middle-school students to wildlife biology, forestry, TK, geography, area history, and safety and survival. Dehcho
Taiga Plains
ENR- Dehcho and Dehcho First Nation 10-14 students per year 2003 - current
Bliss Lake Trapper Training and Fire Ecology Camp Introduce students to skills and traditions related to trapping, including winter camp and survival skills, and chainsaw and firearm safety. Study impact of fire on furbearers and forest ecology.

North Slave Region

Taiga Shield

ENR 80 participants per year 2002 - current
Fire Ecology Camp Introduces students to various aspects of fire (fire behaviour, fuel, weather, topography, fire prevention). South Slave ENR South Slave, Headquarters and Forest Management Approximately 10 per year 2011 - current
Birch Sap Syrup Program Use traditional harvesting of birch sap to introduce students to culturally- relevant and activity-based application of chemistry, biology, social studies, maths and Aboriginal language/culture. South Slave
Taiga Plains
ENR Forest Management

Prince of Whales Northern Heritage Centre
20 students per year

210 students
2005 - current

National Wildlife Week Introduce students and public to one theme subject through hands-on activities and presentations. Part of a national program. All Ecozones  ENR Headquarters Various with event from 20 participants to 600. 1996 - current
Environment and Natural Resources Technology Diploma Two year program to provide training for practical knowledge and technical skills in natural resources and environmental management fields Aurora College in South Slave and Inuvik Regions
Taiga Plains
High Sub-Arctic 
Aurora College (Fort Smith and Inuvik) 10-20 students per year Approx. 250 graduates to date. 90% Northerners 60% Aboriginal 1980 – current (Program started 1978 through Selkirk College.)
Environmental Monitor Training Program Provides five week certification course in field skills for environmental monitoring activities.

Aurora College (Fort Smith) - program delivery covering NWT communities upon request 

Taiga Plains 

Aurora College (out of Fort Smith) – program delivered in community on request Average 30 students per year 150 graduates to date. 2006 - current
INAC Science Camp (name varies with region) Weeklong camp held in various communities as part of community engagement mandate to increase capacity in youth.   Sahtu, North Slave
Taiga Plains 
Indian and Northern Affairs - Contaminated and Remediation Directorate  Average 12-15 per year  2007-present 
Sahtu in the schools  To take information about what wildlife researchers/veterinarians do and introduce it to the kids in the school to encourage youth to think about it as a career. Also provides information on local wildlife species. Sahtu
Taiga Plains 
Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (Promo Science) Sahtu Renewable Resources Board University of Calgary 
Average 200 per year (k-12)  2003-present 
Rivers to Oceans Day Students rotate through tables/displays set up to teach youth about all things related to rivers and oceans. North Slave, South Slave ENR, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Ecology North Average 300 youth per day  
WILD Education Teaches participants to use interdisciplinary acitivity guides that feature interactive indoor and outdoor activities for youth that focus on wildlife and the environment. All regions ENR headquarters, Canadian Wildlife Federation, NWT Parks and Recreation 8 participants certified 2012 Reviatlised 2012
Trees of the NWT Brochure Comprehensive brochure describing various trees found in the NWT and their descriptions and uses along with information on forest management. All regions ENR headquarters Copies distributed to every school in the NWT plus other organizations Printed 2011 for International Year of Forests
Bats of the NWT Poster Comprehensive poster with information on NWT bat species and educational activities. All regions ENR South Slave, Headquarters Copies distributed to every school in the NWT plus other organizations Printed 2012 for International Year of Bats

Looking forward

Organizing formal on-the-land learning experiences for children and young adults is challenging but also very rewarding. Educators, communities, organizations and agencies are noting increased interest in traditional skills and environmental knowledge due to these opportunities. Participants’ evaluations provide sound basis for improvements and offer insights for program changes to enhance the connected-to-the-land experience.

Photo credit: International Year of Forests (c) ENR/ S. Yuill

An absence of information on all formal field opportunities and educational camps in some NWT regions does not mean environment/culture camps or trips do not exist. The information was not available at this time. In future, information from the Aboriginal governments, regional Education Districts, Renewable Resource and Wildlife Management Boards and other organizations and agencies will be included.

Public education specialists, officers and biologists also offer classroom visits and special presentations to schools and organizations. They are varied and represent the diversity of environmental interests in the NWT, ranging from caribou habitat for Sparks and Brownie groups to career fairs in high schools.

These visits and presentations are less well documented and not rigorously tracked.

Informal environmental education opportunities and publications are also occurring throughout the Territory in order to compliment more formal learning.

Looking around

Few national or international programs cater to the needs or culture of young people in the North. Northern-built initiatives are essential to help bridge formal school-based curricula with family/community efforts in sharing environmental and traditional knowledge. Environmental education field opportunities at the University level are offered elsewhere, some with northern field stations.

The Future of Water (c) GNWT/ D. Brosha

Find out more

  • Details on each current environmental education opportunity in the NWT are provided in a document called “Environmental Education in the NWT – On-the-Land Programs Update”.
  • Take A Kid Trapping program.
  • A video featuring elder Frederick Beaulieu, entitled Thumper Creek Birch Syrup Company complements the activity and lesson plan, and is available to all educators. Information about birch syrup on the ENR website.
  • Dehcho Ecology Camps, Bliss Lake Trapper Training, Fire Ecology Camps and Tundra Science Camp reports.
  • Statistics for the Aurora College Natural Resources Technology Diploma program were supplied by Kevin Antoniuk, ECE.
  • Aurora College Environmental monitor training program information was provided by Kevin Smith, ECE.
  • Information on the International Polar Year.
  • Information on the University of the Arctic.
  • Information on Kluane Lake Research Station, Yukon.
  • Information on Daring Lake Research Station, NWT.

Other focal points


Found an error or have a question? Contact the team at NWTSOER@gov.nt.ca.