Every year Natural Curiosity celebrates exemplary teachers through our National Edward Burtynsky Award for Teaching Excellence in Environmental Education. For the first time, we’ve decided to check back in with one of our winners, Chris Dube, to see what he has been up to since we last spoke, and learn how winning the award has impacted his life and practice as a teacher.
P.S. If you liked this potential new series, please let us know so we can do more like it! And if you’re a past Burtynsky award winner who would like to be featured, we would love to hear from you! Email email@example.com to tell us how your story continued…
Chris Dube, an environmental educator at Lake Superior High School in Terrace Bay, ON, has dedicated 15 years to inspiring students through innovative outdoor land-based learning. The 2022 Grand Prize Winner of Natural Curiosity’s National Edward Burtynsky Award for Teaching Excellence in Environmental Education, Chris reflects on the transformative year that followed.
Throughout his tenure at Lake Superior High School, Chris’ commitment as an educator has manifested in numerous projects and programs. Specializing in science education, he conceived the Outdoor Environmental Science (OES) SHSM (specialist high skills major), a double credit course that combines project-based, inquiry-driven outdoor education with a curriculum connection. To ensure the program's success, Chris pursued professional development, including unexpected certifications like lifeguard training. Over the years, he has cultivated meaningful connections with knowledge keepers and Elders from the Pays Plat First Nation, forming the basis for a unique intersection of Western science and Indigenous ways of knowing.
Receiving the National Edward Burtynsky Award affirmed Chris's dedication: "Whenever you win an award at your job, it’s very affirming to what you do, and I was so excited to receive this award," he shares.
Since winning the award, Chris's enthusiasm has only intensified. He spearheaded community initiatives, such as a pow-wow revitalization project with the Pays Plat First Nation. Through this effort, he replaced wooden bleachers with metal ones, expanding the community's capacity for hosting events and workshops. Chris emphasizes the importance of learning directly from knowledge keepers and fostering collaboration instead of division.
In his vision for a community-driven school, Chris champions initiatives like the community garden funded by grants, including the Natural Curiosity National Edward Burtynsky Award. The garden, cared for by his class, features 15 raised beds near the senior center, providing practical connections to larger curricular concepts like northern food sovereignty.
For Chris, connecting with the land through Anishinaabe cultural knowledge is vital. As a non-Indigenous person, he recognizes the value of vulnerability in his learning journey, acknowledging the vast amount he still has to discover. Chris embraces diverse ways of knowing, fostering a genuine and inclusive learning environment.
"Crying is medicine, Laughter is medicine, Community is medicine; it has opened up learners' eyes to understand how we all work together in community," Chris reflects.
When asked for advice to new educators considering land-based learning, Chris encourages them to explore their surroundings: "Ask yourself, what’s in your backyard? What is around you? And what is in your local ecosystem to help you integrate learning between land and curriculum?" His openness, commitment to questioning, and dedication to on-the-land education make Chris Dube an inspiring educator shaping the future of environmental education.