Only second school board in province to achieve distinction
“Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its lifestyle,” Pope John Paul II warned at a World Day of Peace rally in 1990. Heeding the late pontiff’s call to ecological conversion, Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic schools have responded to the increasing challenges of climate change by adopting the Ontario EcoSchools program to increase their students’ ecological literacy and reduce their carbon footprint.
“It’s part of our mission as Catholic educators to pass this responsibility on to our students,” says Dr. Paul Beaudette, Program Leader for Religion and Family Life for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board.
On June 11th, the board’s efforts were recognized when – for the first time ever – all 57 of its schools applied for, and were awarded, Ontario Eco School certification (29 Gold, 26 Silver and 2 Bronze). Only one other school board in the province has ever achieved this distinction.
“The exciting thing about the EcoSchools program is that even with all these good things happening, the overall feeling is that, as a Board, we are just getting started,” says Beaudette.
Adopted by the board in 2005, Ontario EcoSchools is an environmental education and certification program designed to assist school boards in organizing, supporting and coordinating their environmental initiatives and operational practices. The program is integrated with, and builds on, the Ontario academic curriculum, and engages students, staff, school administration and parents in an effort toward responsible stewardship through the development of green teams and green practices. Pillars focus on teamwork and leadership, ecological literacy, waste minimization, energy conservation, and school ground greening.
“It’s important to engage students in learning that will enable them to develop the knowledge, skills, perspectives and practices that they need to be active, environmentally responsible citizens,” says Chairperson Patrick J. Daly. “It’s about shaping attitudes early so our students can make changes in their lifestyle that will be healthier and more sustainable for our environment and natural world.”
Ontario EcoSchools is effective because it is student-centred, innovative, relevant, accountable, capacity-building, and fun. Its success, however, requires a total buy-in by staff, notes Daly.
“Working together is key,” he says. “This achievement – system-wide certification – is a testament to the school eco teams, students, staff and principals whose energy, efforts and enthusiasm have resulted in this wonderful provincial recognition.”
Many of the school-based initiatives are driven by the board’s Social and Ecological Responsibility in Education (SERE) Committee, a committee that meets monthly to plan projects and devise strategies that will assist the board and schools in achieving their environmental objectives.
“The SERE committee has really been the guiding force behind our efforts,” commends Director of Education Patricia Amos. “Their leadership and support have been a tremendous source of inspiration and encouragement to our school enviro-reps and eco teams.”
“It takes commitment and dedication to stay the course,” adds Amos. “I am very thankful for the many wonderful individuals in our schools who are willing to take the lead on such an important initiative. One hundred percent certification – it’s staggering.”
The exponential increase in school participation and certification is “a reflection of how committed board employees are towards the concept of stewardship of God’s gifts,” indicates Grant Ranalli, co-chair of the board’s Social Ecological Responsibility in Education (SERE) committee and Lifetime Achievement Award winner at this year’s Environmentalist of the Year Awards Celebration.
“Although Enviro-Reps – be they teachers or EAs – work very hard to achieve this goal, they are, at various times, supported by custodial staff, administrators, other educators, senior administration, parents, and, of course, the students themselves,” says Ranalli. “As residents of this planet, we are all, in effect, green team members and need to support each other in the preservation of our earthly resources – to use, not abuse.”
That philosophy has led to extensive recycling programs (including the roll out of a green bin composting program at 30 schools); waste-free lunches; re-usable water bottles; solar-powered and outdoor classrooms; hybrid solar and wind turbines; bio-diverse gardens; energy efficient lighting, mechanical and control systems; energy audits; tree planting; active transportation and other environmental initiatives – all in an effort to minimize the board’s carbon footprint.
Those practices have led to repeat gold Ontario Eco School certification for several schools, ten of which this year qualified for a 5-year seal.
“We often talk about the witness of our teachers and staff,” reflects Daly. “Our achievements of the past several years and particularly this year in caring for the environment are a clear indication of the vision, leadership and goodness of our administrators, principals, teachers and staff who live their faith in attitude as much as action.”
Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board Ontario EcoSchools 2011-2012Gold
Bishop Ryan CSS
Bishop Tonnos CSS
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha *
Cardinal Newman CSS
Holy Name of Jesus
Holy Name of Mary *
Our Lady of Lourdes *
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Our Lady of Peace
St. Francis Xavier
St. Clare of Assisi
St. Daniel *
St. Jean de Brébeuf CSS
St. John the Baptist
St. Margaret Mary
St. Marguerite d’Youville *
St. Martin of Tours
St. Michael *
St. Paul *
St. Vincent de Paul
Annunciation of Our Lord
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Cathedral High School *
Immaculate Heart of Mary
Our Lady of the Assumption
Sacred Heart *
St. Ann, Ancaster
St. James the Apostle
St. Mary CSS
St. Teresa of Avila
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Thomas the Apostle
St. Thomas More CSS
Sts. Peter and PaulBronze
Blessed John Paul II*
St. Ann, Hamilton
* Schools with asterisk have been certified for 5 years or more, and qualify for the 5-year seal