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Edward Burtynsky Award
2023 Winners

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Grand Prize Winner

Ryan Andersen

Sprucecourt Public School (Toronto, Ontario)

Ryan Andersen is an elementary classroom teacher at Sprucecourt Public School in downtown Toronto, who has been on a journey with his students to connect with the land they  live and learn on. Ryan and his students spend time every day building community, making  discoveries, and finding joy in both local parks and in the forest of the Don Valley. These green  spaces are located near the Wonscotonach trail, documented as the Anishnaabemowin place  name for the Lower Don River. The area is covered by Treaty 13, and is the subject of the Dish  With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, a treaty between the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas,  and Haudenosaunee that bound them to share the territory and protect the land. Ryan uses  stories and books by Indigenous authors and illustrators to help students develop an  awareness of, and appreciation for, the Seven Grandfather Teachings. He uses an inquiry based approach to nurture students’ understanding of their responsibilities and  accountabilities as stewards of the land they live, learn and work on. 


Ryan’s pedagogical approach to environmental education is based on the work of  Canadian education researcher Jillian Judson, who marries the philosophy of imaginative  education with ecologically-based learning practices. Judson’s approach frames student  learning through three guiding principles; that of ‘’Sense of Place,’ ‘Activeness, and ‘Feeling.’  These principles are central in the creation of curricular content as well as the methods in  which curriculum is delivered. This approach is designed to spark students’ imagination and  create opportunities for innovative and critical thinking. 

Runners Up

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Mara and Shannon

St. James Assiniboia School Divison (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

John Hannah

Hillfield Strathallan College (Hamilton, Ontario)

Mara and Shannon are primary school teachers in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They have been running an outdoor school program since attending the Manitoba Nature Summit in 2014. They started by challenging themselves to teach two weeks outdoors rain or shine. The program has since evolved to at least six weeks outdoors in the Spring, two weeks of Conquer the Cold in the Winter, and daily outdoor play. The innovative award winning (Eco-Globe school distinction 2019 and EECOM.Org School of excellence 2021) outdoor school program now runs annually and school wide where the students are engaged in meeting curricular outcomes through discovery, inquiry, land based teaching, and play. 
Shannon has over 25 years of teaching experience and has received awards acknowledging her passion and work in early childhood literacy. She is a certified field leader with the Outdoor Council of Canada. Shannon infuses her passion for nature, the outdoors, inquiry and play into her daily teaching. Mara brings over 20 years of teaching experience, is a play therapist, and has a post baccalaureate degree in Indigenous Perspectives in Education. Mara brings a land based perspective and infusion of Indigenous culture.
Together they have inspired an entire staff and over 200 students to engage in new outdoor learning experiences that connects them to the land, the environment, and the community. They have had the opportunity to share their outdoor school program, and provide educators with time to trouble shoot challenges, experience hands on ideas, and share stories and anecdotes of their successes and failures. They have presented to school staff made up of educational assistants, teachers, and principals alike. More formally they have presented at SAGE (Manitoba’s provincial education conference), The Manitoba Nature Summit 2022, Educating for ACTion Conference 2019, and Ulead Conference (Banff) 2023. Their passion for outdoor school, land based learning, and simply being outdoors meets all the needs of the developing child. As they nourish their student’s connection to nature and the land they are helping students develop a sense of oneness with the world. Teaching them that the land connects us all.

John Hannah is a middle school science teacher at Hillfield Strathallan College, a pre-K to grade 12 school in Hamilton, Ontario. 

John grew up exploring the rich biodiversity of the Hamilton area within the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Neutral, and Huron-Wendat people. As an avid outdoor environmental educator, he has spent his career committed to creating opportunities for students to fall in love with nature, engage in authentic learning that deepens this connection, and develop skills that empower them to offer reciprocity with the land throughout their lives. He is working on a larger plan to optimize the biodiversity values of his school’s campus, creating acres of nearby-nature readily accessible for outdoor learning for every student, in every grade and subject, every day of the year. 

Student-led projects shape what he calls the school’s “Learning Landscape”. Projects have begun to reconnect local ecosystems within the school’s watershed. Students have planted ecological corridors, a Miyawaki forest, oak savanna, a tallgrass prairie seed orchard, vegetable gardens, a food forest, a new apple orchard and more. Students have been growing and building the Learning Landscape over time, and they are the agents of change as place-builders who are making a difference year after year. At the end of the day, under John’s enthusiastic guidance, they are increasing biodiversity and  building climate change resilience on their 50-acre campus. John has been motivating students and faculty to deeply engage the school in reciprocity with the land by getting to know and enhance their place and learning what it means and how it feels to cherish it.

For more inspiration, read all past Burtynsky Winner Stories here.

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