Everyone in Greater Sudbury is working hard to reach the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Our local school boards are no exception.
They’re already making significant progress, with three of the school boards belonging to the EcoSchools network. The Rainbow District School Board aims to have 100% of their schools eco-certified by 2022 and has 23 schools currently participating. Three schools in the French Public School Board are taking part, as are five in the Conseil scolaire catholique Nouvelon.
Two in Chelmsford, part of the French-language Catholic school board, were recently awarded EcoSchools Canada certification for 2020-2021. The program is an interesting one and makes environmental leadership fun.
Local teachers Stéphanie Gauvreau and Chantal Rioux led the charge. Each say the process is relatively simple: you create an account for your school, pick from a number of different activities, and earn points to reach bronze, silver, gold or platinum levels of certification. The goal: to create students who are leaders in the environmental space.
École Alliance St-Joseph - Gold
Stéphanie Gauvreau has taught at École Alliance St-Joseph for the past six years, in grades 5, 7 and 8. She has always been passionate about science, finding ways to incorporate it into her classroom. Last year, she decided to try to earn EcoSchool certification for her school.
One of their events happens every October: Take Me Outside Day, where the goal is for every class in the school to do a lesson outdoors. Another was held on World Water Day to promote reusable water bottle usage.
Once an activity has been completed, Gauvreau visits a website, fills out a report and answers a few questions. “It’s really easy to do and I would encourage anyone, any school to do it,” she says.
École Alliance St-Joseph was one of three CSC Nouvelon schools to receive the EcoSchools Canada certification for the 2020-2021 school year—and during a pandemic, no less. They earned gold-level certification and it was their first year participating.
“Last year was just a year out of the ordinary. To have that kind of success was very surprising, because that was not my goal,” laughs Gauvreau. “Teaching sciences has really helped because I was often able to use my lessons and make the link. It was something I could apply in my classroom and at the same time I could get some points for the school.”
The other piece of this, of course, is critical: getting buy-in from fellow teachers and students. This was easy for Gauvreau as everyone seemed keen to help.
Being mindful of the environment and trying to make a positive difference is something Gauvreau is dedicated to even in her own home.
“We need to show kids the importance of the environment because it’s their future. The choices we make now affect everyone later on. I’ve always tried to do my small part; I guess I just had enough confidence last year to try to get more people involved and make a bigger impact,” she says.
Gauvreau is quick, however, to credit fellow teacher Chantal Rioux for leading the way.
École secondaire catholique Champlain - Platinum
Chantal Rioux teaches grade 9 to 12 science. She has taught for 15 years and spent the last nine at ÉSC Champlain. Her school first got involved with EcoSchools Canada three years ago.
Every week her school had zero-waste lunches, organized by three students in her club. They also did composting in the cafeteria and bathrooms, had a recycling program for Crayola markers, and used TerraCycle boxes for all the masks and gloves in their laboratories. They participated in Take Me Outside Day and Earth Hour, and did clean-ups in Junction Creek. Sweater Day spread awareness of how heating works.
They also started a hydroponic system after receiving some funding. Nutri towers allow students to grow plants indoors, which is ideal since the growing season is so limited in Sudbury. These towers make it possible to garden all year round and are incorporated into the nutrition classes.
“I focus a lot on garbage and waste management, making sure that the garbage, composting and recycling aren’t contaminated,” says Rioux. “That’s ongoing, year-long, every year training because people are at times confused as to what you can put in which bin.”
With all of these initiatives, it’s hardly surprising that the school earned a platinum-level EcoSchools certification. “We were very proud, especially to get that certification during the pandemic. We were very limited on how and what we were allowed to do, so we had to be very creative,” says the teacher.
Rioux, like Gauvreau, has been pleased with the enthusiastic uptake of her co-workers. She and another teacher are the main leaders at Champlain, but the school’s principal and fellow teachers have been very supportive as well.
“It’s nice to have a lot of the staff involved. The principal is on board, the custodians are great with the composting program and the recycling program and helping us with that. Change is difficult,” Rioux admits. “Every year we slowly do more things to improve.”
She has surprised herself by how passionate she has become. “I’ve become this huge environmentalist that I never thought I was going to be," says Rioux.
For more information, visit EcoSchools Canada.
If you have a project you’d like us to highlight, contact Jennifer Babin-Fenske at email@example.com.