Youth Environmental Initiatives: EcoSchools Canada
Joe R. Zammit
Director of Education
Originally known as EcoSchools Ontario, this organization has set forth a process by which schools can determine its ecological footprint and set forth actions and goals to reduce detrimental environmental practices. If you are looking for a program that walks the talk then look no further. EcoSchools not only helps you to calculate your school’s waste and energy consumption it also challenges you to change practices and asks of you for the proof that your school is actually taking actions for the betterment of the planet.
Under its online certification process it requests of you to take things further and incorporate your interests in stopping climate change by immersing that effort in curriculum practice. Teachers are requested to provide lesson plans on the environment and must also submit evidence and proof of actual work the students accomplished. So if your lesson plan involved a park clean-up, then you better show photographic proof that you put the lesson into practice and evidence that students were actually picking up trash.
The EcoSchools Canada mission “is to nurture environmental leaders, reduce the ecological impact of schools, and build environmentally responsible school communities.”
For schools this program has had an incredible positive impact on our environment. Young people and educators are encouraged to be innovative, change practice and display school community leadership. It goes without saying, our future resides within the walls of a school. What better place to begin the changes we need to tackle climate change? According to EcoSchools “96% of certifying schools indicate that they support student leadership.”
Since 2002, EcoSchools has had an “award-winning program” that has provided “independent, third-party verification for schools and outdoor education centres.” They are the largest bilingual, voluntary environmental certification program for K-12 schools in Canada.
EcoSchools Canada in addition to school certification, supports “all levels of the education sector through training workshops and webinars, annual conferences, educational resources, and fundraising opportunities.”
When a school registers into the EcoSchools website there is a series of certification steps that will determine if the school has achieved Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum in its planned and executed ecological practices:
Here are the 7 Steps of Certification:
Step 1 Curriculum-Linked Learning: “Curriculum connections are built into all aspects of the EcoSchools program.” Teachers are encouraged to make connections between “environmental actions, campaigns and activities that are undertaken in the program and apply them to the classroom.”
Step 2 Connect: Build Your EcoTeam: This process involves “getting interested students, teachers, custodial staff and administrators together to form a diverse and student-led EcoTeam.”
Step 3 Review: Conduct Initial EcoReviews: Initial EcoReviews are the next step; “before the EcoTeam starts planning actions for the year, they need to do an initial assessment of their school’s current environmental impact. This includes areas such as waste and energy” of their school building.
Step 4 Plan Your Actions: A Yearly Planner which the schools EcoSchools team will keep track of throughout the year ensuring a calendar of events, goals and strategies are adhered to.
Step 5 Engage your School: “The biggest impact happens when everyone is involved! This part of the process involves regular communication with the whole school community while engaging everyone in environmental actions, campaigns, and monitoring their success.”
Step 6 Reflect: Reflection involves evaluation of the current year of environmental actions, while planning ahead for the next year.
Step 7 Celebrate!: This is the recognition of all the work that has been done during the school year. “We always encourage schools to take time to celebrate their dedication to environmental learning and action.”
Proof is always in the numbers and so as of 2018 EcoSchools Canada have involved over 1,900 schools certified in 58 school boards across the country. Nearly 1,000,000 students have engaged in environmental learning & action through this certification process.