Case Studies

These case studies illustrate how Alcoa is acting upon its commitment to sustainable development throughout the world. We are pleased with this progress, but look forward to achieving even more.

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2009 — Community

Success snowballs for Environmental Education Project

By Claude Poudrier, M.Ed., SEAC
Trainer in EEC

Every one of us has a dream. I have the opportunity of making my dream a reality, the dream of inducing citizens of all ages to TAKE ACTION for the environment. It is my pleasure to share with you the amazing adventure I’ve been living for the past six years.
Since 2002, I have been head of an Environmental Education and Citizenship project in Québec and elsewhere in Canada. The project consists of offering a model for the involvement of citizens within their community, so that they may contribute to improving the quality of life of all its members. To date, the program has been successfully applied not only among adults, but also among the 4-year-olds of a day-care centre, in primary and secondary schools, as well as in colleges and universities.
The preferred model we use is called Action-Research for Community Problem Solving. This model leads citizens to identify an issue in their community and to resolve it in a group effort. The issue can touch on the physical, biophysical or social environment (ex.: vandalism, waste of potable water, blighted land, etc.).
The beginning
Once I had obtained a master’s degree in Environmental Education in 1993, I began an experimentation of the Action-Research for Community Problem Solving model with my six-graders. This model was developed by William B. Stapp in 1988, at the University of Michigan in the United States.
My experimentation was conclusive, and was greatly appreciated by the community’s different political, economic and social stakeholders.
The success of the projects carried out by the young participants was reported in the media, which prompted other social and academic stakeholders to send me requests for training.
It was at that time, in 2002, that the Alcoa Foundation approached me to offer financial support for the training project to be carried out in five Québec school commissions. A review of this first year in Québec set out not only the concrete projects accomplished in the schools, but also the appreciation of those involved in these community initiatives.
This first contribution of the Alcoa Foundation was the starting point of the popularity the program enjoys today. The Foundation’s unfailing support enables us to provide free educational materials for children and adults, as well as training for intervenors in the community.
During the years to follow, other French and English school commissions filed a request for this program. In addition to the students of the primary and secondary school levels, the heads of the college and university studies programs, and of day-care centres (children 4 years of age) also requested the integration of the model into their academic programs. Inspired by the program’s success, two new financial partners joined the Alcoa Foundation in 2004, namely the Ministère de l’Éducation du Québec and the Desjardins Group.
To date, over 10,000 students have carried out concrete projects within, for and with their communities. Moreover, as many as 504 teachers, educators and community workers have integrated the model into their tasks. The project is now present in 20 or so regions in Québec, as well as elsewhere in Canada, notably in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon.
Spin-offs and recognition
I received two prestigious awards thanks to the program’s innovative character in the area of sustainable development. In May 2007, I was granted the Phoenix Award for Environmental Education and, in June, the title of Hometown Hero of Earth Day 2007. These were great moments for me, since they made me realize the importance and relevance of my project. I am even more convinced that this program meets the needs of our society, as it seeks to integrate citizens who are committed to their communities.
It should also be mentioned that in Canada, other important organizations have recognized my expertise, notably Environment Canada for Agenda 21, the Canadian Policy Research Network, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference, where I had the opportunity to present my expertise to representatives of 180 countries. The Government of Canada retained my project as an example of success for its climate change program.
The program has now spread beyond the boundaries of Canada. The Negev Center in Israel and five organizations in Chile have signed cooperation agreements with me to implement the program in their respective country. Furthermore, an expert from Goulburn Valley, in Victoria, Australia, travelled to Trois-Rivières to learn more about my environmental education program.
It must be underlined that in 2007, the universities of Montréal and Sherbrooke developed research projects in education that included the task of establishing the impacts on the participants themselves and on the members of the communities. It was in this capacity that a professor of the University of Sherbrooke filed a request to the Alcoa Foundation in the framework of its Fellowship Program. One of the objectives of the University’s project is to bring my expertise to Guinea, in Africa, for teacher training.
Other development projects
A major event will take place in Montréal in May 2009: the International Conference on Environmental Education. I will be presenting my expertise during the Conference which is expected to attract roughly 4,000 participants. For the year 2008-2009, other school commissions will join those that have been participating in the project since 2002. Furthermore, other schools in Manitoba will be integrating the program into their curriculum in 2008-2009.
Another exciting project is currently being developed: the production, with the National Film Board of Canada, of a documentary by filmmaker Fernand Dansereau. This film, “Les Porteurs d’Espoir”, will cover the experience of Montréal youths, aged 11 to 13, who successfully rallied the members of their community to resolve a real-life issue in their living environment. The film will be a first in the environmental education arena in Canada.
I also participate as a speaker in at least five congresses or symposiums every year. Additionally, I am contributing to another development project in the Vallée de la Batiscan area, where organizations are seeking to implement my expertise in local agriculture, eco-building, and primary and secondary level education.
The universities of Montréal and Sherbrooke have also developed research projects of which one of the objectives is to identify the knowledge, know-how and self-management skills developed by those who participate in the approach. We are already aware that the participants develop skills such as communication, critical capacity, perseverance, and strategy, but these academic research projects will add to the program’s characteristics.
Great personal satisfaction
This marvelous project has given me a feeling of great personal satisfaction. I have successfully prompted youths and adults to take action using a structured and democratic approach. Not only does my program enjoy the appreciation of the players themselves, it is well received by the leaders of the academic, political and social arenas.
These actions respect the principles of sustainability, and the tool I put forward, namely the Action-Research model, is firmly anchored in the community. The model meets UNESCO’s five objectives in the area of environmental education: awareness, understanding, knowledge, participation, and mind-set.
In my capacity as head of this project, I’ve noticed that people who are interested in taking action often don’t know how to go about it. Once again, my program meets this need.
In fact, it can be said that it meets the needs of the community, not only as regards education, but the needs of our society in general.
Gratitude towards the Alcoa Foundation
I am very grateful to the Alcoa Foundation for having supported this project since 2002. I therefore do my best to help the Foundation and to publicize its involvement in the community.
For example, it was my pleasure to contribute to the organization of the ACTION 2007 program (“Signature Event”) by identifying the schools interested in participating in this event. In addition, I wrote articles for publication in Fusion and LifeMagazine in order to publicize the Foundation’s support for this program.
We organize recognition ceremonies in all the environments where projects are accomplished. We invite representatives of the Alcoa Foundation to attend these activities and offer a plaque to the participants – a trophy that bears the Foundation’s logo.
Given the continued expansion of the program, I am called upon to meet with the print and broadcast media; once again, these are opportunities for me to underline the exceptional contribution of the Alcoa Foundation without which this program could never have enjoyed such a success.
I therefore wish to express how grateful I am to the Alcoa Foundation for all its support.