Faculty of Education

2014 W.A. Townshend Gold Medal in Education Awarded

By: Cory Habermehl
Thursday, December 11, 2014

Faculty of Education graduate student Beryl Cohen has become part of a prestigious group of researchers by being awarded the W.A. Townshend Gold Medal in Education.

The medal, named in honour of the Late Bishop Townshend of London, Ontario, is awarded to the Masters in Educational Studies student with the highest academic standing in his or her graduating class. It was presented today in a formal recognition ceremony at London’s Windermere manner.

Beryl Cohen receiving award.

Todd Townshend, Dean of Theology at Huron College, presents the W.A. Townshend Gold Medal in Education, named after his late Grandfather, to Faculty of Education graduate student Beryl Cohen.

“I’m incredibly honoured and surprised,” said Cohen. “I worked very hard, but had no idea this would be the end result.”

Cohen’s Master’s thesis investigated the benefits of place-based and arts-based environmental education. Centred in Etobicoke, it involved a collaborative effort between teachers, students and the community in building an art garden for students and the public.

“I grew up on the prairies and I was always outdoors learning with my parents,” said Cohen. “I wanted to see what happened when kids went outside again – I believe educating people outdoors can offer a lot more than just fresh air.”

Students involved in Cohen’s research took part in everything from planting and maintaining a variety of vegetables and flowers to designing art installations and developing an area dedicated specifically to attracting monarch butterflies.

Results showed the outdoor learning environment helped reduce student anxiety levels, improve attention spans and improve the way in which they interacted with each other. She hopes government policy makers and school boards will use her work to integrate place-based and art-based environmental education more solidly into the provincial education system.

“Outside, students were more connected to each other, more aware of themselves, and experienced real mental health benefits,” said Cohen. “That type of education and learning environment is incredibly important.”

Todd Townshend, Dean of Theology at Huron College and grandson of the award’s namesake, was in attendance to present the award.

“My grandfather was a trustee of the London Board of Education for 44 years,” said Townshend. “He believed in the importance of education and of recognizing outstanding work in the field. He would have been very proud and excited to see this type of work come to fruition.”

The research is an example of the Faculty of Education’s desire to take charge of the future and create a better world for future generations.

“You now hold a graduate degree from Western’s Faculty of Education - a very prestigious faculty at a tier one research university,” said Associate Dean Pam Bishop. “This is a gift for life, and we can’t wait to see what you’ll do with it.”

To learn more about graduate studies at the Faculty of Education, please visit Graduate Education.