EcoSchools gets $500,000 boost from province

On Tuesday, the province boosted its support by $500,000 for Ontario EcoSchools, an increasingly popular environmental education program with deep York roots.

During a visit to Earl Haig Secondary School, a Toronto District School Board-certified EcoSchool, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne and Environment Minister Laurel Broten also announced the launch of two youth Web sites – for secondary students and for elementary students – to increase environmental issues awareness.

Right: EcoSchools program coordinator Catherine Mahler speaks as Education Minister Kathleen Wynne (seated left) and Environment Minister Laurel Broten listen

The announcements are part of the McGuinty government’s stated commitment to turn environmental education into action on climate change. 

"The funding announced today will enable EcoSchools to expand into more boards, engaging more students to become environmentally responsible citizens and transforming their schools and communities," said Catherine Mahler, EcoSchools project coordinator, based at York. "We thank the Government of Ontario for their support."

Ontario EcoSchools is designed to help school boards and schools teach students to live in a more sustainable way. The program was initially launched in 2003 by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). When the TDSB decided to explore ways to share the program with other Ontario school boards, they approached Faculty of Environmental Studies Professor Lewis Molot to chair the Ontario EcoSchools organizing committee – and to help recruit experts in the Faculty to provide advice on climate change.

Since then, 20 school boards have embraced the program, which takes a two-pronged approach — to educate students and to take action to make their school more environmentally friendly. Depending on the success of their energy, waste and school ground greening activities as well as their curriculum strategies, schools can qualify for EcoSchools bronze, silver or gold certification. For the 2006-2007 school year, as many as 200 schools in 10 school boards are expected to have achieved certification.

From the beginning, FES has supported what has proved to be a growing and very popular program by providing office space and offering EcoSchools resources on the Faculty’s Web site. Last year, FES decided to expand its support by honouring an outstanding EcoSchool – Shoreham Public School (see YFile story May 4, 2006).

Evergreen has been a partner in the EcoSchools program since its inception and has been responsible for the development of its school ground greening component. It will be administering the $500,000 grant from the Ministry of Education.

"We must help students build on the knowledge and leadership they have already shown on climate change issues," said Wynne."Our government is committed to reaching every student with an environmental education that inspires them to take positive action."

"EcoSchools has helped so many students, teachers and staff take action together for the environment – in the classroom, in the school building and on the school grounds," said Evergreen’s executive director Geoff Cape. "We are certain it will be welcomed in schools and boards across Ontario. We congratulate the government for its support and vision."

The Ministry of the Environment created the two new Web sites to explain the challenges facing our planet and inspire students to take actions that protect the environment.

"Climate change is the challenge of our generation," said Broten. "By informing and inspiring students to take action on environmental issues and climate change, Ontario benefits in two important ways – we will have healthier schools and greener communities, and we are growing the environmental leaders and innovators of tomorrow."