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Making Schools Eco-friendly

Posted Jul 14th, 2017

Making Schools Eco-friendly JACQUELINE MULLIN

We’ve all heard about anti-idling campaigns in school zones, as well as beefing up environmental curriculum, but now schools are going full-out green. In doing so, youth are seeing energy conservation as way of life.

The occasions to weave sustainability seamlessly into formal education are limitless, and various schools across Canada are doing just that. In 2016, the top three winners of Canada’s Greenest Schools award provided students with hands-on learning opportunities designed to increase their connection to the earth while teaching them to look for and implement creative ways to battle climate change.

First prize went to the Energy and Environmental Innovation program of the Career and Technology Centre at Lord Shaughnessy High School (CTC). School trips to Alberta’s glaciers and natural bodies of water showed students the impact of climate change first hand. Additionally, the decision to design, build and maintain a solar installation project capable of generating one fifth of the energy required by the Calgary Board of Education illustrates yet another way that CTC is working to extend the concept of green schools beyond their own walls.

Embracing the connection between mental wellness, learning and environmental health has proven to be an element of the greening of schools that has a large impact. While the students of CTC brought the natural world into the physical space of the school by creating aquaponics living walls, planting an orchard and food garden, as well as using the sun to light some of their indoor spaces, the second-place winners, Argyle Alternative High School in Manitoba, have embraced their outdoor classroom, framing their learning experience with sun, plants, and clean air.

Receiving recognition as the greenest schools in a school district requires institutions to not only achieve a certain level of environmental stewardship but to maintain it. Within Ontario’s Halton District School Board, seven schools, six primary and one high school, were honoured with Platinum eco-school certification for the 2016-2017 academic year. A program focused on teaching students of all ages the importance of being active participants in protecting the environment; Ontario’s EcoSchools program also emphasizes teamwork and leadership.

These unique approaches to the greening of schools illustrate the power of marrying nature and learning. By making schools eco-friendly, students are taught the importance of protecting the earth, the potential repercussions of ignoring climate change and the power of nature to find balance, peace and healing. By creating opportunities to actively teach environmental education today, schools are not only achieving third party recognition but more importantly, are instilling the importance of these lessons in the hearts and minds of future generations.

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