A Local Community is a great way to engage in project-based inquiry. Each group of students will walk and observe their local community and critically reflect on the level of environmental degradation as well as sustainability that their neighbourhood is currently operating under. The sustainable framework that will be used will be offered by the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation (TWRC). The TWRC believes that the key aspects of the development of sustainable communities involve:
- Social progress that meets the needs of everyone
- Effective protection of the environment
- Prudent use of natural resources
- Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment
This sustainable framework came out of the joint review by the TWRC with the Swedish Expert Team on behalf of the Swedish Trade Council in 2004. It was apparent that any future development had to incorporate sustainable ideologies due to the past failures of urban planning and future goals of Toronto.
The Local Community Study will contain the following headings in order to educate the students on the interconnectedness between economic, social, and environmental concerns:
- Physical Characteristics of the Community (including environmentally sensitive areas)
- Historical Development
- Demographics and Culture
- Health and Social Resources
- Architecture and Land Use
- Art in the Community
- Business in the Community
- Current and Future Development Projects (including potential development)
In order to fully comprehend the notion of sustainability, students must examine these headings through academic research, technological vices such as Geographical Information Systems and other mapping software, as well as physical interaction within the neighbourhood. Students will have the opportunity to participate in walks, usage of public transit, and other forms of transportation in order to fully understand the community and its potential for sustainability.
By using the TWRC Sustainability Framework, each student can determine whether their local neighbourhood is currently environmentally sustainable and if it is, students will examine how to maintain and/or improve it. If it is not, students will determine what measures need to be taken in order to accomplish their goal. Using an analytical approach, students will be expected to offer sustainable solutions to their neighbourhood especially in regards to economic, environmental, and/or social concerns.
The ultimate goal of this study is to enhance their personal validation of their local community, to understand the problems that persist, and to offer solutions for the future. Students will feel connected to their environment and realize aspects of their community that they have neglected or disregarded. As for the educators, since the nature of this study does not require extensive travel or expenses, they should feel more comfortable engaging in this learning strategy.