PS News

Reports on recent College activities and a selection of announcements, events and initiatives in the wider education community.


Students drive, teachers guide
Natural Curiosity

Elementary school teachers are giving a thumbs-up to Natural Curiosity, a new inquiry-based approach to environmental studies. OISE/UT's Laboratory School at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study developed the method to help teachers cover the curriculum in novel ways.

Project leader Lorraine Chiarotto, OCT, says the program helps to implement the principles of Acting Today, Shaping Tomorrow, the Ministry of Education's 2009 environmental policy document. That policy's goal is to "embed environmental education expectations and opportunities in all grades and in all subjects of the Ontario curriculum."

Adopting an inquiry-based approach to learning, Chiarotto says, meets that policy objective by promoting cross-curricular integration of essential environmental and sustainability principles.


"The kids are so much more engaged," says Susanna Chwang, OCT, who tested the technique with her Grade 1-2 class at Rose Avenue Junior PS in Toronto.

With Natural Curiosity, the kids ask the questions and the teachers guide them to potential answers. "They really want to find out why, they want to learn," says Chwang. "The ability to think that way is priceless."

Endorsements by Chwang and six other elementary teachers appear on the Natural Curiosity web site ( launched in May after several years of development and classroom experimentation. Visitors can download the entire 180-page environmental inquiry program for free. The site also includes the classroom experiences of the teachers who field-tested the approach. Their insights guide others through practical and relevant examples.

"The hardest part for teachers is letting go," says Chiarotto. "They have to be more flexible in their lesson plans. But they quickly find that the children are so motivated that they learn more and achieve a deeper understanding. And at the end of the day, they will realize that the curriculum has been covered in full."

Says David Suzuki, who addressed Natural Curiosity's launch event: "Inquiry-based learning in which the child's curiosity leads the teaching is the way we have to go. We desperately need this kind of education."