The Gulf Islands Centre for Ecological Learning had its beginnings in June 2000 with a proposal to the Gulf Islands School District #64.

Over the next two years, supported by the District #64 School Board, a small team held Gulf Island community wide roundtables on the concept of ecological learning programs within the communities, undertook extensive market surveys both within the district and out-of-district to measure the feasibility and demand for such programs. The School Board approved the final feasibility and concept plan in October 2002.

Starting in July 2001, Summer Ecological Education Programs (SEEP) were held on Mayne Island to test program activities and obtain feedback. In summer 2004, these SEEP programs were offered on Mayne and Salt Spring islands. In 2005 a program was added on Pender Island, and in 2006 on Saturna Island.

GICEL became a BC registered non-profit society in June, 2003 and received its federal charitable status in July, 2004.