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The Pathway to Stewardship

Originally appears in the Summer 2017 issue

Being an environmental educator in today’s world feels like you are asked to stop a rushing river armed only with a teaspoon.  There are so many issues coming at you—from climate change to habitat destruction, from oceans of plastic to endangered species and from the loss of biodiversity to melting glaciers and the list goes on…  Teaching children about these formidable challenges seems daunting, overwhelming and at times, well – hopeless.[i] And despite our best efforts, things just seem to be getting worse.

Perhaps like a reversed telescope, environmental education is being looked at in the wrong way.  Instead of dealing with reactions to problems and to trying to solve environmental issues as they arise, it may be worthwhile to think about the type of citizen we want for our earth.  Or, as Simeon Ogonda, a youth development leader from Kenya, asks: “Many of us often wonder what kind of planet we’re leaving behind for our children. But few ask the opposite: what kind of children are we leaving behind for our planet?”[ii]  Raising environmentally engaged citizens doesn’t happen by itself.   As the saying goes, “it takes a village.”   All of us collectively are responsible for fostering the stewards of tomorrow.

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Jacob Rodenburg is the Executive Director of Camp Kawartha, an outdoor and environmental learning centre near Peterborough, Ontario.  As well, he is the co-author of The Big Book of Nature Activities (New Society Press).  For more information about the Pathway to Stewardship initiative, visit:

An earlier version of this article was published in the January 2017 edition of Interactions, the journal of the Ontario Society for Environmental Education (, and is reprinted here with permission. It will also appear this spring in Worldwatch’s new book EarthEd: Rethinking Education on a Changing Planet.  (  Jacob would like to thank Cathy Dueck and Nicole Bell for their invaluable contributions to the Pathway to Stewardship Initiative.