Eco Classrooms Embrace the Future
Gone are the days when your child’s education was simply about reading, writing, and arithmetic. A well-rounded education these days includes an overview of the bigger picture, and part of that picture includes environmental responsibility.
Many schools are not only renovating with clean energy in mind, but they’re also weaving sustainable development into the core curriculum. In 2010 the Ontario government released several guides to help school boards across the province adopt green programs within their schools. The initiative is to promote greener buildings as well as encourage the use of environmentally responsible products within the schools.
Upper Canada College has gone even further, combining the growing sustainable infrastructure of the school with the student’s studies. From this the UCC Green School was born, started in 2002 to promote environmental awareness and responsibility among their students. "Part of the mandate of the Green School is to turn our facilities into learning centres," says Steve Thuringer, UCC’s Director of Facilities. "So basically turn them inside out." The buildings themselves, some of which were built before the 1960s, are being retrofitted over time to adhere to energy conservation practices. The new athletics arena, built in 2008, is a LEED gold standard building, which uses less energy than the model energy code. "And that’s the premise for what we want to build going forward," says Thuringer.
Creating green facilities is just a small part of the Green School. The other facet is the curriculum. UCC has designed projects that ask students to measure the environmental repercussions of their decisions. "It doesn’t happen immediately. So we’re looking at actions that have an impact over time," says Mary Gauthier the Executive Director of the Wernham West Centre for Learning. One of the main things they hope boys take away from the Green School is "that they’re responsible citizens and that they develop an understanding and a sense of care about their impact on the world," says Gauthier.
Other schools are starting with smaller initiatives to reduce the environmental footprint – initiatives that they hope will inspire students to live a more sustainable lifestyle. These programs are easily integrated into school life and can put your school on the track to becoming an eco-school as well.
GOOS Bins: Good. On. One. Side. bins that is. These baskets, placed in every classroom can greatly reduce paper waster. Paper that has only been used on one side is deposited into GOOS bins to be used as foolscap, for brainstorm session, or maybe even doodling!
Vegetable Gardens: Converting a small part of the school yard into a vegetable garden can inspire students to grow their own food and can contribute to healthier cafeteria meals. Tended by science classes or eco-club volunteers, gardens can be a fun way to get students involved in sustainable growth.
Reusable Water Bottles: A great fundraising opportunity, selling reusable water bottles made of recycled materials and emblazoned with the school logo can be part of a campaign to reduce the amount of plastic waste at school and boost school spirit, all at once!
Labels: Labeling garbage cans with exactly what goes in them and what doesn’t is perhaps the easiest way to decrease raw waste and promote recycling. Believe it or not, the biggest factor holding students back from recycling is not knowing what goes where!
The main objective of every green school initiative, from big renovations to small school projects is to help students learn how to live in harmony with their world. This belief fits in perfectly with the growing number of communities around the world joining forces to reduce our environmental footprint and educating today’s youth. Because today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders.
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