Students across Ontario are going green! They’re collecting classroom recycling and organics, ensuring energy is being conserved, creating outdoor learning spaces, and learning about how their actions — no matter how small — can make a big difference for our environment.
Founded in 2002, Ontario EcoSchools is a voluntary certification program that recognizes schools for their achievements in six areas, including waste minimization. Schools can achieve bronze, silver, and gold certification for their efforts to incorporate responsible environmental practices through all aspects of the school. In 2012-13 Ontario EcoSchools is piloting a further extension to the certification levels by testing a Platinum certification level with a select number of schools.
“Ontario EcoSchools has been implemented in over 50 school boards in Ontario,” said Elanor Waslander, Ontario EcoSchools Program Director. “This represents 70% of the 2.1 million students in the province. We’re so proud of all the students across Ontario who are working to protect, and learn about, our environment.”
Schools in Halton have embraced Ontario EcoSchools. In 2012, 114 Halton schools were certified, including 86 in the Halton District School Board, 26 in the Halton Catholic District School Board, and two in the Provincial Schools Branch.
“Ontario EcoSchools is so much more than ‘points’ for certification,” stated Ron Ballentine, Environmental Education Coordinator at the Halton District School Board. “Environmental learning becomes integrated across all subjects, and students gain leadership skills. When you walk into an EcoSchool, you can just feel it.”
“Community partnerships are also an important part of Ontario EcoSchools,” explains the Halton Catholic District School Board’s EcoSchools representative, Paul Deoni. “Students participate in waste diversion workshops by Halton Region, take part in Conservation Halton’s Stream of Dreams program, learn about nature at the Royal Botanical Gardens, and connect with local environmental groups.”
Of course, there are other environmental education programs in other jurisdictions: SEEDS Foundation’s Green Schools, the Province of Manitoba’s Eco-Globe Schools, the Foundation for Environmental Education’s Eco-Schools, and the Green Schools Initiative.
On October 24 and 30, 2012, Halton schools will join together for the annual Halton Student EcoCelebration, in which students share their achievements with their peers, and celebrate the successes of their environmental programs.
Is your school an Ontario EcoSchool? What environmental initiative are you most proud of accomplishing?