What began as an idea in York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) in 1998 to teach elementary and secondary students about the environment and conservation has now become a registered charity.
Ontario EcoSchools now reaches more than 900,000 Kindergarten to Grade 12 students every year, empowering them to effect change within the school community. It also trains and supports teachers, school staff and school board officials to provide guidance to these young leaders. In doing so, it certifies more than 38 per cent of public schools in Ontario, representing 56 of the 72 school boards in the province. It also promotes environmental learning and action, helping schools become more environmentally responsible.
York U FES Professor Lewis Molot, current Chair of the Ontario EcoSchools Program Advisory Committee, led the initial incubation of the award-winning project, which emerged from his work as associate dean of FES. The Faculty formed a consortium with several Ontario school boards in 1998 to better integrate environmental education into the school system. The consortium then adopted the EcoSchools program, created by the Toronto District School Board, and launched with a federal grant for climate change education.
Within the 12 years as an incubation project, Ontario EcoSchools has doubled in staff size and operational budget and is now setting its sights on scaling the program across the province and beyond. After being administered by York University, the organization is launching as an independent charity.
As the first environmental-focused Faculty in Canada, it’s no surprise that FES was the incubator of Ontario EcoSchools. The University is recognized internationally for excellence in research, transdisciplinary studies and sustainability, as well as for progressiveness, commitment to social justice, accessibility and inclusivity.
The Ontario EcoSchools program follows a strong history of the University as a leader in addressing global climate change through pedagogical initiatives.
“Our partnership with York has been essential to becoming a leading environmental education organization in Ontario,” said Elanor Waslander, executive director of Ontario EcoSchools. “By providing stability, administrative support and community, York has helped our growth and impact. We are excited to foster a renewed partnership in the years ahead.”
By supporting a fledgling program nearly 15 years ago, York University has made an exceptional impact on integrating environmental literacy in schools across Ontario.