Ontario EcoSchools, a growing success
Ontario EcoSchools recognizes schools for commitment to ecological literacy and environmental action
Ontario EcoSchools celebrates the many achievements of the 1801 certified Ontario EcoSchools across the province. The voluntary certification program is being implemented in over 50 school boards in Ontario, representing 70% of the 2.1 million students in Ontario. The program recognizes schools for their achievement in six areas: Teamwork & Leadership, Energy Conservation, Waste Minimization, School Ground Greening, Curriculum and Environmental Stewardship.
"The program is built upon the premise that we want to help students develop ecological literacy while engaging in practices to become more environmentally responsible," shares Alison Macaulay from the Peterborough Catholic Board. "In the process, they learn to reduce the environmental impact that comes from being in school."
Since 2003, the Ontario EcoSchools program has experienced dramatic growth in both the number of participating schools and boards; from 13 schools in one board in 2003-04 to 1801 schools in 51 boards in 2011-12. As the diversity of participating schools continues to grow, so too does the breadth and depth of environmental initiatives being implemented in schools.
In 2011-12 a large number of new school boards joined the Ontario EcoSchools network certifying schools for the first time. In the north, Lakehead Public Schools and Thunder Bay Catholic DSB joined Keewatin Patricia DSB spreading the impact of the program in the Thunder Bay area. French-language school boards also became active including 3 new boards: Conseil des école publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario EcoSchools, Conseil des école Catholiques du Centre-Est, and Conseil Scolaire Viamonde. Ontario EcoSchools is pleased to continue to support French-language schools with workshops, site visits, as well as a full suite of resources, and on-going support in the French language.
In addition to new school boards joining the EcoSchools network, two school boards have attained the impressive goal of having 100% participation from all of the schools in their board. Notably this achievement has been attained for the first time by Hamilton Wentworth Catholic DSB who joins Niagara Catholic DSB who has had full participation for the third year running.
For the first time in 2011-12, Ontario EcoSchools recognized over 150 schools that have been certified for at least 5 years, with a 5-year seal, acknowledging their continued achievement in the program. This demonstrates that schools have continued to find the EcoSchools a good tool in developing ecological literacy in their students as well as implementing environmentally responsible practices on a daily basis to minimize the impact of their school on the environment.
Each school year reveals trends in environmental education. A trend for the 2011-12 school year included a (re)emerging commitment to developing student leadership. A growing number of school boards are hosting Eco Conferences to provide opportunities for students to get together and share EcoSchools best practices, deepen ecological literacy and build skills.
“The spirit of the day for students was networking, connecting, celebrating, inspiring, and being inspired,” explained Aaron Puley, from Hamilton Wentworth DSB that hosted an EcoFair for elementary students. Students from the EcoFair continue to stay connected through their board-wide EcoSchools blog, an online forum for sharing inspiration and tackling challenges.
Another exciting trend is a renewed focus on outdoor learning. Through participation in the EcoSchools program, many schools design, plan and implement an outdoor classroom or garden area to increase the biodiversity and useful shade available within their grounds. Halton DSB is working closely with the Back to Nature Network to publish a teacher’s guide to help teachers use the school grounds as a rich learning environment. Alongside the guide, HDSB invited elementary teachers to after school outdoor learning workshops with great response.
For the new school year Ontario EcoSchools is launching an Online Community for teachers and Board representatives. The Online Community is intended to provide a central location for teachers to network with other EcoSchools throughout the school year. This central site will be a place where teachers can share resources in the community forums, highlight their school program with an individualized school scrapbook blog pages, find out the latest on the EcoSchools blog, and connect to other schools via chat and video conference capability.
As students, teachers and school communities start the school year with new environmental goals in mind, it is inspiring to see how the growing network of schools and boards deepen their commitment to learning in, about and for the environment. Congratulations to all participating schools on their environmental achievements.
Ontario EcoSchools was created to address environmental issues in the formal education system. Seven school boards, York University, and the TRCA collaborated to adapt the work of the Toronto District School Board, developing a provincial environmental education program. The Ontario EcoSchools program is free-of-charge, supported by the Ministries of Education, Energy and Environment. For more information visit www.ontarioecoschools.org.
Media contact: Elanor Waslander, Program Director – firstname.lastname@example.org; 416 642 5774 x1