How do we raise engaged and concerned citizens in our community? How can we teach children to care for each other and the land and water we share? The Pathway to Stewardship is a community-based strategy that attempts to answer these important questions. It provides a way forward so that we, collectively, can foster tomorrow’s stewards, today.
A steward can be defined as someone who tends to and takes responsibility for, the well-being of all community members, both human and non-human alike. A vibrant community contains healthy people in a healthy ecosystem. A steward works to protect the integrity of both.
The Pathway to Stewardship provides a guide and a roadmap towards stewardship based on every stage of a child’s development. Using a series of benchmarks, or goals for each age group (29 benchmarks in total), this strategy is carefully matched with the developmental needs and abilities of children and youth as they grow from birth to adulthood. It suggests local resources able to support the achievement of each benchmark.
This proposal is grounded in extensive research in child development, educational theory, moral development, and the factors promoting mental and physical health in children. Many concepts emerging from the literature echo Indigenous knowledge and wisdom, which we include with great appreciation and respect.
This strategy emerges out of the thoughts, ideas and insights of many local Peterborough leaders. We interviewed more than 75 community leaders from a wide variety of sectors, to learn what childhood experiences helped promote their love of the natural world, and to collect their recommendations for today’s young people. These results were overlaid on the literature review to develop the benchmarks suggested in this proposal.
It is worth noting that the strongest links between childhood experiences and stewardship in later life, also play a key role in fostering wellness in children. For example, giving children ample time for unstructured play in diverse natural areas enhances mental and physical health while fostering important personal traits such as creativity and self-esteem.
The Pathway to Stewardship is a call to action for everyone who plans for, or spends time with children – parents, teachers, relatives, community groups, health professionals and government agencies. It integrates with the Ontario curriculum, and provides many ideas for family activities and community programs. The more broadly this strategy is endorsed and adopted in the community, the deeper the benefit for our children and their world.
This document forms a basis for community discussion – a place to start. It will strengthen from further ideas and feedback. This Pathway begins in Peterborough, but can be expanded and applied in other regions as well. It is grounded in our shared love for our children and hopes for their present and future health and well-being.