To mark the 10th anniversary of Ontario EcoSchools, Cascades is partnering with the 1st edition of the EcoAction Challenge. What are EcoSchools? This is an education and certification program that raises the consciousness of elementary and secondary students regarding sustainable development. This year, nearly 100 certified EcoSchools are participating in this competition by developing a sustainable initiative and sharing it on social media. Raise public awareness about sustainable development, favour exchanges between participating institutions and stimulate other schools to join the EcoSchools program: these are EcoSchools’ objectives.
Through its involvement, Cascades supports and encourages student engagement for the environment throughout Ontario. In addition to participating as a mentor for the different schools, Cascades, through Marie-Josée Carrier, communications and sustainable development consultant, was part of the jury and had the chance to evaluate twenty projects. The winners were rewarded for their innovative ideas.
In some schools sustainable action involves greening the schoolyard. The neighbouring communities are solicited to contribute to a greener recreational space by donating money and time! The students then can create theme gardens, develop shaded areas favouring biodiversity and learning, and grow indigenous plants that reduce the carbon emissions related to their delivery. Unionville School used its recreational space for the deployment of several inquiries: the younger children gathered materials to build nature crowns, while the older students built rafts to calculate the strength of their river’s current. They then took a census of the invasive species found on the site and studied the stream water chemistry. These fine initiatives won them first place in the contest!
In other schools, the sustainable measures involve energy saving: by effective internal communication, motivation by awarding prizes to the greenest classrooms, creation of an Energy Hog mascot, or setting up a student council on energy consumption. Jack Miner School, which came second in the contest, established an EcoSchools team that acted as environmental mentor for the entire institution. Thanks to the informative brochure created by the EcoSchools organization, the young guides were able to teach their fellow students forest mysteries.
Such initiatives would not be possible without the invaluable guidance of school staff. Thanks to the employees, the Ontario EcoSchools program will return next year.
Cascades is also present for Quebec schools, supporting the Réseau québécois des écoles entrepreneuriales et environnementales, which develops conscious entrepreneurial and environmental education from preschool to college.