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Reconnecting students to nature: it is never too late
Liette Vasseur is a Canadian biologist who has held the UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability: From Local to Global in the Department of Biological Sciences since 2014 at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. She is also a member of the Women and Gender Studies program and the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. She is the President of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. Her research program is mainly in climate change, sustainable development, community-based ecosystem management (including ecological restoration and biodiversity assessment), and environmental health.
Education for sustainable development requires to reconnect students to nature. Brock University has the advantage to be located on former agricultural lands at the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. Its location is unique as a part of the campus is located within the core of the UNESCO Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve. It represents a great place for education from elementary children to university students. Over the past eight years, through my UNESCO Chair, I had the opportunity to develop a field course on biodiversity in the biosphere reserve and a new one on ecosystem ecology. Both are based on concepts related to sustainability. These courses allow students to acquire skills related to conservation, environmental protection, ecosystem management, and climate change. Being project-based, students can practice their skills and discuss how protecting the environment in such a way that sustainable development can be truly achieved. Giving the chance to students to explore and use different technologies improves their level of awareness that development is not only economic but must balance with social and ecological components of our world.