Elizabeth Spence

MES 2011Liz1


Liz completed a Bachelor of Arts with an Advanced Major in English before becoming part of the SRES community for her MES. Her interest in environmental education and what was available within the formal classroom motivated her to conduct a qualitative research study on Halifax’s sixth grade teacher perceptions on environmental education, as well as a content analysis of three of Nova Scotia’s sixth grade curriculum documents.

Current Position: 

Liz currently works as a Naturalist in Visitor Services at the Museum of Natural History, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Unearthing Environmental Education: A Study of Sixth Grade Curriculum and Teachers’ Experiences in the Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia


In 2002, the United Nations declared 2005-2014 the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and emphasized environmental education as a catalyst in creating positive change. This study examines the presence (or absence) of environmental education in the sixth grade of the Halifax Regional School Board in Nova Scotia. Content analysis was conducted to determine the environmental quality of three curricula – health education, science, and social studies. Semi-structured interviews were then conducted with a cohort of teachers to determine their conceptualizations of environmental education and implementation barriers. Results show the curricula have a strong reliance on knowledge-based learning and assign less importance to experiential learning and attitudes. With teachers, the data show that environmental education implementation depends highly on personal beliefs, especially due to its minor role in the curriculum. Furthermore, the lack of resources, training, and support from upper levels cause environmental education to be “important but not a priority”.


2010/2011 Joseph-Armand Bombardier Master’s Scholarship, SSHRC

2009/2010 Faculty of Graduate Studies Scholarship, Dalhousie University


Spence, E., Wright, T. & Castleden, H. (2013). Present, absent or tardy? A study of environmental education in Nova Scotia’s sixth grade curriculum and the barriers and bridges to implementation in the classroom. Applied Environmental Education and Communication 12(3): 197-200.

Conference Presentations:

2011: APICS (Atlantic Provinces Council on the Sciences); 20 minute oral presentation of preliminary research findings.

2010, 2011: Elizabeth May Research Symposium; research poster (2010 – research design and methodological challenges; 2011 – preliminary research findings).

2010: 39th annual conference for the North American Association of Environmental Education; poster presentation on research design and preliminary findings; 20 minute presentation at the connected Research Symposium.