Campus Ecological Education Program


1. Introduction

2. Goal

3. Objectives

4. Assumptions

5. Sustainability

6. Systems Study

7. Rationale

8. Elements of our Project

9. Methodology

10. Limitations

11. Areas of Further Research

12. Conclusion

13. Species Identified in the Dorney Garden

14. Contacts

15. Bibliography


Our society's concept of what constitutes good landscaping follows the traditional ideals of carefully maintained lawns, sustained by regular trimming and moderate fertilizer and pesticide use. Recently, alternative forms of landscaping have become more acceptable. Traditional forms of landscaping still predominate because understanding and knowledge of ecological principles are necessary to promote naturalization techniques. On the University of Waterloo campus, the majority of the landscape adheres to the traditional approach of providing grass interspersed with annual flower beds. Both of these elements are standard for many human inhabited landscapes. However, these methods have drawbacks. They lack sustainability because they require high-maintenance, are only useful to humans and they offer no educational opportunities. The Dorney Garden outside the Environmental Studies 1 building is an ideal example of an alternative to common landscaping. It is beneficial and sustainable in that it addresses all of the drawbacks to common landscaping. Once established, ecological gardens are almost maintenance free, provide food and shelter for many forms of life, and offer many educational opportunities.

The purpose of this project is to help people understand the rationale behind creating naturalized areas by using the Dorney Garden as an example in practicality by raising the university community's level of ecological awareness and understanding. This can help promote alternative landscaping techniques, in turn encouraging an understanding of our involvement and interaction with the land.


The goal of the campus ecological education program is to raise the level of ecological awareness and understanding on campus. We hope to educate students about the importance of natural and ecologically unique areas at the University of Waterloo.


The following objectives have been created to help reach our goal:

  1. Research Environmental Educational Philosophy.

  2. Create signs for selected species.

  3. Produce educational materials for the University and global community.

  4. Display pamphlets at the entrances of the garden for visitor use.

  5. Create an internet resource page for ecological gardens

  6. Develop an infrastructure for further educational efforts


A broad range of assumptions were made before embarking on the Campus Ecological Education Program.

  • There is a lack of understanding about the Dorney Garden and its purpose on campus.

  • There is a lack of environmental awareness on campus. The most effective way to challenge this is through environmental education programs. On-site educational materials can be an effective and efficient method towards increasing the environmental awareness of the university community.

  • Internet resources are a beneficial and complementary resource for environmental educational materials. These resources are easily accessible and available to the university and greater communities.


Sustainability is an environmental and social approach to resources, incorporating the needs for spiritual, intellectual and physical growth without compromising these opportunities for future generations. Sustainability is an issue of concern, for it revolves around humans' use of natural resources and the general treatment of our natural environment. Interaction with the earth comes from the collective ideas, attitudes and norms that people subscribe to. Recently, it has become clear that these ideals need to change if we are to conserve our resources and not jeopardize the future of the natural world. However, this necessary change in action will not occur unless people's attitudes are altered. The most important catalyst in changing stagnant beliefs is through education that helps people realize the effects of their actions and the necessity of change.

The landscape practices at the University of Waterloo are not sustainable; the majority of the landscape consists of high maintenance turf. This ground cover requires many additional inputs of fertilizers, pesticides and water to maintain its healthy condition. These inputs along with their resulting damage to local waterways and other natural systems defines a very unsustainable landscape.

The Dorney Garden is a display of a unique and alternative form of naturalization. In this technique, the wealth of additions and demands on time used in the common landscaping are not an issue because a more sustainable form of landscaping is being demonstrated. The garden helps to sustain both plant and animal communities and by propagating native vegetation, this garden helps to promote local biodiversity. It is also self- sufficient, requiring no additional human inputs. Overall, this creates a landscape area which is much easier to sustain when compared to the traditional landscapes on campus.

It is difficult to change views on what constitutes a favourable landscape on the university grounds, therefore, to help people understand the rational behind more sustainable landscaping, there must be an educational link. Our project hopes to help with this educational component by promoting a better understanding of the need for more landscaping such as the Dorney Garden.


Our system study begins with the entire biosphere or Earth System. This system has an infinite number of sub-systems. For our purpose of studying the Dorney Garden and its place in a system study, we will follow the cultural and biophysical systems of planet Earth.

The human cultural system has many branching sub-systems which include educational systems like the University of Waterloo and its socio and economic sub-systems. The socio and economic systems govern how the biophysical system is treated. The University administration makes landscaping decisions based on the preferences of the fee paying students and parents.

We feel an important and overlooked "socio" sub-system is the environmental education and interpretation of natural areas for those who live and work in the University community. The administration has, in the past, had the attitude that people visiting and working at the University wished to see vast expanses of lawn, free of weeds and bare patches. Historically this has been a sign of a prosperous and worthy institution. As discussed in the introduction, this perception is not shared by everyone.

The biophysical system of the University campus includes the biotic features such as the organisms which live in and around Laurel Creek, natural vegetation along the creek, landscaped areas of manicured lawns, shrubs and trees, as well as the ecological garden. Because the water affected by the runoff from the University is one circulating entity, the hydrological system will also be considered. Each of these components affects and is affected by the landscaping practices employed by the University community. The Dorney garden can be considered a sub-system of the larger landscape system on campus: a pocket of paradise in a desert of drab.

How do we incorporate the natural world in our human engineered surroundings? The socio and economic systems requires that passageways are safe and that things look pleasing to those who contribute financially to the system. The biophysical system requires that runoff to the creek be free of chemicals and that diversity of species is maintained. By including areas of native species such as the Dorney Garden into the larger landscape system several benefits to both the biophysical and socio-economic systems can be gained.

The ecological garden has boundaries determined by its surrounding buildings and walkways. The garden interacts with the environment by providing habitat for birds and other wildlife. It also provides a refuge and opportunity for environmental education for the people who visit it. The environment, in turn, is spared the wasted inputs of chemicals and energy.


Sustainability is more than just a definition or a keystone environmental term. It is a lifestyle and an honest commitment to living more lightly on our earth by lessening our ecological footprint. This lifestyle reflects commitment by the application of sustainable attitudes and behaviours. These actions will create a new relationship with the natural world. As a result, the dominant value system in our societym will change. We need to move away from our consumptive lifestyles and return to the basics. Fundamental decision-making must consider environmental factors in order to be responsible to the earth. A newly developed value system will revolve around strong environmental ethics and will reflect our interdependence with the earth. For this to happen it is necessary to encourage change. As stated by Albert Einstein,

"If humankind is to survive, we shall need a substantially new manner of thinking."

It is necessary to act now, to find a process or a tool which can facilitate this change, and alter a consumptive values system which is over a century old.

Education is the necessary process, as it is the best catalyst for change. Education is the one common factor in all of our lives that can be used as a tool to shape our society and is the key to unlocking the door of sustainability. Education is the base of all our lives. Through both formal and informal education, members of society develop a personal value system which reflects their understanding and perception of the world around them [Cheskey, 1993]. If a stronger environmental ethic directed our educational system, the promotion of change would establish a set of environmental values leading to more sustainable lifestyles.

Changing personal values through the process of education is not a new philosophy. It is the basic ideology behind environmental values education. This is highlighted by the 5 R's program defined below.

The 5 R's model of environmental values education was developed by Frank Glew in 1987. This model utilizes "action learning, and presents a dramatic system which takes the learner from awareness to action and finally reflection. The five R's are recognition, research, resolution, responsibility and revision [Glew, 1987]. The following goals of the model encourage sustainable lifestyles:

  1. to help create positive values compatible with a sustainable society and nature

  2. to change present personal and societal values, through humanistic reasoning and compassion which supports our fragile ecosystem globally and for future generations

  3. to encourage people to analyze their values policies by using a value structure which shows moral guidance to the values that are fundamental and most important for a high quality of life

As stated above, environmental values education solicits an emotional response from individuals. It is well documented that understanding and caring will lead to action. Knowledge itself is not enough [Hungerford and Volk, 1990]. This type of educational approach is called the affective domain. This strategy, which is the least used in a traditional classroom setting, is historically the most effective [Parks, 1996]. It involves an emotional response as highlighted by the following;

"While exploring nature it is more important to feel than to know". [Andrea Schluter, Environmental Educator and Ecologist]

Clearly education, most importantly "environmental values" education, is an essential link for sustainability. Interpretation is one of the many avenues for environmental education. Interpretation is a tool which provides essential information about an area or concept to help people understand and appreciate, while increasing their environmental awareness and sensitivity [Butler, 1993]. Similar to environmental values education, interpretation strives to create understanding and not just knowledge, which is essential for any successful environmental education program.

There are seven essential elements which lead to a successful interpretative program. All seven elements utilize the affective domain of education and are excellent tools in complementing environmental education programs. Interpretation also utilizes the active learning domain. This is a strategy where education centers around exercises consisting of hands-on, and other sensory experiences [Parks, 1996]. The application of active participation offers the greatest opportunity for individuals to retain information.

Seven Elements of a successful education program: [Butler, 1993]

  • On-site, first hand experience

  • Informal education

  • Voluntary, non-captive audience

  • Expectation of gratification

  • Inspirational and motivational in nature (more than facts)

  • Shifts in attitudes, expansion of knowledge and behaviour changes are goals

  • Extrinsic activity based on intrinsic values

Interpretation programs can add to any environmental education effort, increasing the effectiveness of the program. Interpretation is a tool, used by environmental educators to complement educational efforts and appeal to a larger and more diverse audience. For these reasons interpretation is an essential tool for environmental educational efforts.

The Campus Ecological Education Program has decided to concentrate on environmental education. The aim of our group was to set up an educational infrastructure for the Dorney Ecological Garden. The rationale for our project is that in order for our society to become sustainable, our values must change and environmental education is a vital link and catalyst for this change. We then decided that various educational efforts, complemented by interpretation and the use of the internet would be the most effective forms of education that would appeal to the largest audience, given our limitations.


Educational Pamphlet

A pamphlet has been previously created for the Dorney Garden. This pamphlet required editing and reformatting. Once all graphic sources for the pamphlet were secured, the pamphlet was revised under the guidance of Larry Lamb. It was then produced for distribution in and around the garden. The pamphlet aims to encourage self-guided learning for individuals visiting the garden.

Pamphlet Boxes

Pamphlet boxes are to be posted in the garden for on-site distribution of the pamphlets. They are designed to be weather resistant and complementary to the garden design. Two boxes will be placed at the entrances to allow people to pick up and drop off pamphlets. Signs on the boxes will refer visitors, who wish to expand their knowledge of the garden, to Larry Lamb.

Species Specific Signs

Thirty species present in the ecological garden were identified and labeled with the assistance of Larry Lamb. The following selection criteria was used to choose the species identified.

visibility and accessibility in garden


abundance in garden

ecologically unique or endangered species

listed in educational pamphlet

Internet Resources

Internet links are designed to complement on-site information. The Dorney Garden home page (created by assistant professor of Architecture, Val Rynnimeri), the pamphlet, and the Northern Garden plans on campus are linked through our home page. By creating links for information about ecological gardens on campus we hope to expand the interest and the audience.


  1. Research

    Research was done to determine which educational materials were available on the Dorney Garden. We also researched the philosophy behind environmental education and sustainability.

  2. Consultations

    Interviews were held with Larry Lamb and Roger Suffling, concerning many aspects of the project. We also consulted with Larry Lamb to determine which species should be identified. Species selection for identification was based on visibility along the path, frequency of inquiry about species, and species highlights in the pamphlet.

    Consultation with John Debrone, the Woodshop Coordinator, was also an important part of creating our project. He provided a tour of the woodshop and assisted with determining which materials would be best suited for the species specific signs and the pamphlet boxes.

  3. Investigation and Visioning

    Interpretive options were researched to ensure an appropriate and effective method of public education for the Dorney Garden. Sign construction and labeling methods needed to comply with the current vision of the Dorney Garden and were required to be weather resistant and mobile.

  4. Planning and Design

    We had to design and construct the species specific signs and the pamphlet boxes. The educational pamphlet needed to be revised before it was ready for distribution. We also had to obtain building material from Beaver Lumber as well as the metal shop on campus.


  1. Time and Funding

  2. Rules and Policy on Campus

    Regulations exist on campus for posting signs and our decisions had to be directed by these regulations.

  3. Established Educational Base

    No previous educational project had been organized for the Dorney Garden, thus it was necessary to establish a base for future educational efforts.


For this project, 30 species of the over 150 species present in the garden have been identified. Therefore, there is still much room for identification and labeling of species within the garden to give a more complete representation of what occurs there.

The creation of a seasonal interpretive sign for the Dorney Garden would be an excellent educational addition, exploring the seasonal changes and ecological significance of the garden.

Larry Lamb has expressed an interest in establishing a reading course that could analyze the effectiveness of the pamphlets and any change in appreciation or understanding of the Dorney Garden.

There are a great number of avenues that can still be explored concerning the educational value of the Dorney Garden. A greater focus on publicity could be taken in order to reach a greater numbers of university students and community members. The garden could be added to the campus map and tour circuit, posters could be displayed around the university and articles could be written for the campus newspapers.


The Dorney garden has provided a great opportunity to establish an educational base for naturalization techniques on the University campus. The garden represents an alternative to traditional landscaping practices and hopefully, through education, the ideals that it represents will be incorporated to a larger extent in University and community practices. Support for these ecological projects stems from an understanding and this understanding is a direct result of education.

"Ecology gardens are like a library full of books. A library is built, and acquires important works to ensure they are available. Acquisition and protection are indeed important, but the books have to be read and understood for their true worth to be realized. To learn to read and therefore to appreciate such works is the role of interpretation and education."

-interpreted from James R. Butler


  1. Cup-plant

  2. Bur Oak

  3. Trumpet Creeper

  4. Butterfly Milkweed

  5. Prairie Rose

  6. New Jersey Tea

  7. Coneflower

  8. Fragrant Sumac

  9. American Bittersweet

  10. Highbush Cranberry

  11. Serviceberry

  12. Arrowwood

  13. Redbud

  14. Nannyberry

  15. Spicebush

  16. Alternate -leafed Dogwood

  17. Purple-flowering Raspberry

  18. Christmas Fern

  19. Hazel Nut

  20. Prairie Dock

  21. Red Cedar

  22. Big Blue Stem

  23. Culver's Root

  24. Wild Bergamot

  25. Giant Sunflower

  26. Ironweed

  27. Showy tick-trefoil

  28. Tall Coriopsis

  29. Prickly Ash

  30. Kentucky Coffee-tree


Larry Lamb

Ecology Lab, ES2

Coordinator of the ecological gardens on campus

519-888-4567 ext. 2646

Greg Michelanko

Environment and Resource Studies

Advisor for multiple research projects involving the ecological gardens

519-888-4567 ext. 6577

Tibi Clark

contacted through Greg Michelanko

Author of the Robert S. Dorney Ecology Garden educational pamphlet

John Debrone

Workshop Supervisor

519-888-4567 ext. 3446

Roger Suffling

Urban and Regional Planning

Ecologist, assisting with species specific signs

519-888-4567 ext. 3184


1. Cheskey, E. Habitat Restoration: A Guide For Proactive Schools. Third Edition. Waterloo County Board of Education. Waterloo, Ontario. 1993.

2. Butler, J. "Interpretation as a Management Tool". Parks and Protected Areas in Canada. Dearden and Rollins. Toronto. Oxford University Press. 1993.

3. Glew, F. The 5-R's Process. Waterloo County Board of Education. 1987.

4. Hungerford H.R., and T.L. Volk. "Changing Learner Behaviour through Environmental Education." Journal of Environmental Education. 21 (3). 1990.

5. Parks, S. Personal Communications. "Educational Strategies in Ontario Classrooms". Scarborough, Ontario. 1996.

6. Silverberg, J. and I. Thompson. How Do We Bring the Outdoors In?. Environment and Resources Studies Thesis. University of Waterloo, 1994.