Toronto Outdoor Education Schools Celebrate Gold...Again
It's not surprising to know that the TDSB's Toronto Outdoor Education Schools (TOES) are particularly invested in the increasing attention to and interest in environmental issues. For the third year in a row, TOES has shown that they also "walk the talk." All ten TOES sites have been certified as gold level EcoSchools for the third year in a row.
Schools can earn bronze, silver or gold certification status by completing an online series of questions about the school's environmental practices in a number of areas. An EcoTeam made up of representatives from all areas of the school community, from principal and caretakers to teachers, students and parents, reviews areas for action, implements plans and provides leadership to produce thorough and lasting results. Areas for review include school ground greening, ecological literacy, community clean-ups, green purchasing, and innovative projects.
Staff at each TOES site regularly network with one another as part of an EcoSchool working group that meets three times a year to share ideas, problem solve, and collaborate on department-wide ecological literacy. “Being green inside as well as outside allows the TOES department to model, mentor and demonstrate daily to visiting schools and staff how easy it is to be green,” says Barb Imrie who is chair of the TOES EcoSchool working group. TDSB Ecological Literacy and Sustainability department staff are also members of the working group and provide valuable advice and encouragement.
But it's the local TOES staff that deserve the biggest kudos. An overwhelming 87 percent of staff at TOES are members of school EcoTeams, even though being a member is voluntary. Some locations even have 100% staff participation in the annual EcoSchool certification process. "Energy conservation, waste minimization, ecological literacy and outdoor centre greening projects are all part of the TOES daily operations," says Imrie.
Program Coordinator for Ecological Literacy and Sustainable Development Richard Christie says that what makes EcoSchools unique is its cross-departmental nature that has staff working together from School Services, Facility Services, and Business Services. “Ecoschools addresses what is taught in the classroom, how our schools are run and how school grounds are designed and used.”
That intergration of services has helped the program grow to include 173 TDSB schools that have been certfied as bronze, silver or gold. And the word continues to spread. "Many visiting teachers and students return from their outdoor education visits motivated to become EcoSchools themselves," says Imrie.
Collectively, TOES have already had a significant impact on the EcoSchools program while continuing to reduce its own ecological footprint each year. As new initiatives and ingenious solutions help to conserve energy and save dollars, staff at TOES are leading the way and showing how to turn green into gold.