Taking Action with EcoSchools Canada
By Emilie Rayner and Clara Luke
Schools across Canada — particularly those in and around the Ontario Greenbelt — have been learning about this biodiverse area and exploring the biodiversity in their own schoolyards through the “Taking action in the Greenbelt with EcoSchools Canada” project, funded by the Greenbelt Foundation. The project has provided schools with resources and funding to support learning and action on this important and timely topic!
The Greenbelt Biodiversity “action” is a key resource that EcoSchools Canada has created through this project. It includes guidance for students and their school communities on activities such as conducting a plant inventory on the school grounds: identifying as many different plant species as possible, collecting total population counts for each species and determining whether each species is invasive or at-risk in their area. A plant inventory is an important first step in understanding the biodiversity that already exists in an area, and can lead to further action such as invasive species removal and planting native species.
Some schools took this further step and chose to grow native species in their school to support local biodiversity. By growing native species on their school grounds, they were able to enhance ecological health in their area. As with all EcoSchool actions, student leadership was the focus as they took the lead in planning, communicating, implementing, and tracking their Greenbelt Biodiversity action. This year, over 199 schools have taken up the Greenbelt Biodiversity action, reaching over 103,555 students, not only in Ontario, but across Canada!
The project has also provided micro-grants for school ground planting projects focusing on native species. In total, 26 grants ranging from $100 - $5,000 have been awarded to schools located on or in close proximity to the Ontario Greenbelt. The grants were designed to support school communities and student-led EcoTeams with their native species planting projects that enhance local biodiversity. These projects not only provide meaningful outdoor learning for students but contribute to the overall health and well-being of the surrounding ecosystem.
In the 2021-22 school year, 11 schools received a micro-grant to support their planting projects. The 2022-23 micro-grant program offered schools grants in higher amounts, to allow for greater impact on school ground biodiversity, and even more positive environmental outcomes. The 2022-23 program received an excellent response, with well over 100 submissions of inspiring projects. Of these, 15 schools on and around the Greenbelt were awarded the grants. These schools' inspiring ideas and commitment to the environment have truly made a positive impact on their communities.
Central French Immersion Public School was awarded the top $5,000 grant to support their school's vision of adding native trees to their outdoor learning space and becoming a Butterfly Way to support native bee and butterfly populations. This exciting project not only provides stewardship and leadership opportunities for the students, but also supports important pollinators and contributes to local biodiversity.
The Greenbelt serves as a conduit for migratory species, and we have the advantage of observing them as they visit and live on our school grounds and surroundings. We look to develop stewards of the environment in our students, who care about preserving this space for future generations to come. As active school EcoCitizens they will become active community citizens with the goal of protecting their local environment and beyond. Students engaged in data collection, planning, observation, and hands-on experiential learning about native and at-risk flora and fauna.
- Julie Arsenault-Howick & Ashley Hall, EcoTeam Teacher Leaders, Central French Immersion Public School, DSBN
This collaboration between the Greenbelt Foundation, EcoSchools Canada, and participating schools has been a wonderful opportunity to work together to support environmental education and community-based initiatives. We are proud to celebrate the success of the program and the inspiring projects that have resulted from it. Congratulations to all the student leaders taking on this action, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact of your projects in the coming years!
Emilie Rayner is the Program Coordinator with EcoSchools Canada and Clara Luke is the Senior Program Manager with EcoSchools Canada.