EcoSchools puts learning into action

  • November 21, 2008
PICKERING, Ont. - Surrounded by her classmates, nine-year-old Zeina Abu-Jurja recites some of her “environmental pet peeves.”

One pet peeve, she said, is when the television is on even if no one is watching because it’s an energy waster.
This is an exercise during one of the meetings of the lunchtime “Eco Team” at Holy Redeemer Catholic School in Pickering, east of Toronto. The school is one of 560 schools which is taking part in the Ontario EcoSchools program.

According to program co-ordinator Catherine Mahler, more Ontario schools are expected to take part this year. In 2007, the number of participating schools doubled. This year, there are 11 Catholic school boards involved.

Ontario EcoSchools is an environmental education program designed collaboratively by school boards. It promotes energy conservation, reducing waste, ecological literacy and green school grounds. School boards use the Ontario EcoSchools program’s resources as a template.

The program also certifies schools based upon certain environmental criteria. Audits can be carried out by  a school’s “Eco Team” which keeps track of eco-friendly practices by students such as the amount of recycling, waste or energy savings at the school. At the end of the year, the points are tallied where schools can earn a gold, silver or bronze certification, depending upon the environmental activities taking place at their school.

Tim Robins, assistant superintendent of facilities services at the Durham Catholic District School Board, said the boards’ schools have been successful in gaining certification: 16 schools were certified last year.

At the Toronto Catholic District School Board, elementary school’s science resource person Roberta Oswald said the board is aiming to have 50 certified schools this year.

Among the Toronto board’s environmental awareness initiatives is a salmon hatchery program in January at 10 schools. And on Nov. 26, up to 150 Toronto Catholic students were expected to participate in an environmental youth forum.

According to Oswald, the EcoSchools program is about “putting learning into action.”

In addition, the program also has economic benefits: water conservation will translate to savings for the board, she said, and it’s also training tomorrow’s leaders.

Back at Holy Redeemer, teacher Mary Matteau  takes note of the urgency in teaching students to care for the environment.

“It’s teaching students about how to create a better future,” she said.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.