Ontario EcoSchools: successful York University project matures


TORONTO, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018 – What began as an idea in York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) in 1998 to teach elementary and secondary students about the environment and conservation has now become a registered charity.

Ontario EcoSchools now reaches more than 900,000 Kindergarten to Grade 12 students every year, empowering them to effect change within the school community. It also trains and supports teachers, school staff, and school board officials to provide guidance to these young leaders. In doing so, it certifies more than 38 per cent of public schools in Ontario, representing 56 of the 72 school boards in the province. It also promotes environmental learning and action, helping schools become more environmentally-responsible.

York U FES Professor Lewis Molot, current Chair of the Ontario EcoSchools Program Advisory Committee, led the initial incubation project, which emerged from his work as Associate Dean of FES. The Faculty formed a consortium with several Ontario school boards in 1998 to better integrate environmental education into the school system. The consortium then adopted the EcoSchools program, created by the Toronto District School Board, and launched with a federal grant for climate change education.

Within the 12 years as an incubation project, Ontario EcoSchools has doubled in staff size and operational budget and is now setting its sights on scaling the program across the province and beyond. After being administered by York University, the organization is launching as an independent charity.

As the first environmental-focused Faculty in Canada, it’s no surprise that FES was the incubator of Ontario EcoSchools. The University is recognized internationally for excellence in research, transdisciplinary studies and sustainability, as well as for progressiveness, commitment to social justice, accessibility and inclusivity.
The Ontario EcoSchools program follows a strong history of the University as a leader in addressing global climate change through pedagogical initiatives.

“Our partnership with York has been essential to becoming a leading environmental education organization in Ontario. By providing stability, administrative support, and community, York has helped our growth and impact. We are excited to foster a renewed partnership in the years ahead,” says Elanor Waslander, Executive Director of Ontario EcoSchools.

By supporting a fledgling program nearly 15 years ago, York University has made an exceptional impact on integrating environmental literacy in schools across Ontario. As one EcoTeam member notes: “Small acts can have big impacts”.

About the Faculty of Environmental Studies
Established in 1968, the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University is the first Environmental Studies Faculty in North America. Offering 3 innovative programs at the Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral levels, our mandate is to provide unsurpassed opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching, learning and research about natural, built, social, cultural, and political-economic environments and the dynamic relationships between these. Dedicated to inspiring active-learners and engaged citizens, we are a community that respects and values insight, creativity, justice, and diversity and that works to promote significant social and environmental change toward the creation of a more equitable and sustainable world through imaginative and critical thought, and concerted action. Challenge what is. Imagine what could be. fes.yorku.ca

About Ontario EcoSchools
Ontario EcoSchools is an environmental education and certification program for grades K-12 that nurtures environmental leaders, reduces the ecological impact of schools, and builds environmentally responsible school communities. www.ontarioecoschools.org

About York University
York University champions new ways of thinking that drive teaching and research excellence. Our students receive the education they need to create big ideas that make an impact on the world. Meaningful and sometimes unexpected careers result from cross-disciplinary programming, innovative course design and diverse experiential learning opportunities. York students and graduates push limits, achieve goals and find solutions to the world’s most pressing social challenges, empowered by a strong community that opens minds. York U is an internationally recognized research university – our 11 faculties and 25 research centres have partnerships with 200+ leading universities worldwide. Located in Toronto, York is the third largest university in Canada, with a strong community of 53,000 students, 7,000 faculty and administrative staff, and more than 300,000 alumni. York U's fully bilingual Glendon Campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education.

Media contacts:
Elanor Waslander, Executive Director, Ontario EcoSchools, 416-642-5774 ext. 6, ewaslander@ontarioecoschools.org
Sandra McLean, York University Media Relations, 416-736-2100 ext. 22097, sandramc@yorku.ca