Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Glassford, Larry


environmental education, nature, Ontario, outdoor education centres, school facilities, space




School facilities are not passive containers, but designed spaces that project particular systems of values. Prior to the development of the idea that separate school facilities should be built to provide students with outdoor learning spaces, classroom teachers commonly used outdoor spaces within their local communities as pedagogical resources. Across Ontario, Canada's most populated province, it is commonly perceived by several scholars, news media, and many classroom teachers that school-board-operated outdoor education centres are one of the few spaces where students can learn about nature. In 2012, the Ontario Ministry of Education announced $20 million in funding "to support outdoor learning activities for students provided by school boards or by third party organizations, such as not-for-profit or community groups," while restricting school boards from using this funding for "costs associated with board outdoor education facilities" (Gallagher & Clarke, p. 1). Little is known about the history of Ontario school-board-operated outdoor education centres. This dissertation asked the following research question: How have Ontario school-board-operated outdoor education centres evolved since the establishment of the first facility in 1960? Although school facilities are often assumed by researchers of educational issues to be stable sociological givens, this dissertation provides empirical evidence which challenges such an assumption. This dissertation illustrates that from 1960 to 2012, the state of Ontario school-board-operated outdoor education centres underwent several waves of growth during times of economic prosperity, and decline during periods of economic recession. Based on the evidence provided in this dissertation, stakeholders interested in the operation of these facilities are recommended to consider the financial structure of school boards prior to the development of such assets. Through careful consideration of the financial structure of school boards, stakeholders can more effectively ensure the financial sustainability of these facilities during times of both economic growth and decline.