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From Newcomer to Environmental Citizen

Originally appears in the Winter 2010-2011 issue

Environmental educators who are teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) courses have a unique opportunity:  they can develop classroom materials that teach language skills to newcomers, while helping them understand environmental issues and develop a personal environmental ethic.  Developing one’s ethics is about understanding who we are and how we should live. It is also about our relation to each other and nature, and taking responsibility for our actions.

All high school disciplines provide opportunities to incorporate environmental lessons and help young people become caring and responsible citizens. Although English curricula does not specifically address the environment, developing an understanding of one’s own responsibility for all living things can be fostered in related courses such as Media Studies, Reading and Literature Studies, Oral Communication, Philosophy, ESL and English Literacy Development. The inclusion of environmental ethics into the English as a Second language program for newcomers could be considered a logical extension and would help them recognize how to live their own lives fully.

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Galina Vakhromova is an internationally trained teacher of German Literature, and German and English languages, who lives in Toronto, Ontario.