Acting Today, Shaping Tomorrow is province’s guiding document for environmental education. I was drawn to this title as it is “à propos” to what we strive for in the environmental field. Decisions we make today impact our future and who better to relay this message to than our youth?
I reviewed Acting Today, Shaping Tomorrow and other related documents as they pertain to the grade eight curriculum when Ms. Peaker, a grade eight teacher at Alton Village Public School, asked for a city representative to make a presentation to three geography classes (Ms. Peaker’s, Ms. Oakes’, and Ms. Mootoo’s) on February 4 about how the city is working towards its sustainability goals.
Some of my presentation highlights included:
- Explaining the role of sustainability staff at the city
- Showing a map of the city’s almost 50/50 urban and rural split and plans to protect that ratio by ‘growing in place’ (up and not out)
- Sustainable building features through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
- Sustainable and active transportation initiatives
- Expanding community gardens
- Waste diversion opportunities and restricting the sale of bottled water at city facilities
- Community and corporate energy initiatives – using energy maps to highlight energy consumption per household and per square metre
- The influence of the Burlington Sustainable Development Committee over the past 25 years
- An introduction to the draft Strategic Plan (2015-2040) and the link to the environment
A key component of my presentation was to highlight that EVERYONE, even grade 8 students, can make a difference and impact the environment either positively or negatively. Students were encouraged to:
- Take an active form of transportation to school. With approximately 900 of 952 students living close enough to walk or cycle to school, there shouldn’t be any traffic issues in the morning. Unfortunately this is not the case though I am happy to report that when I asked how many of the grade eight students walked or cycled to school, the majority raised their hands. An upcoming opportunity for students to reduce their impact on the environment and to get active is to participate in Bike to School Week between May 30 and June 3. Another is to run a campaign discouraging parents from idling their vehicles.
- Unplug phone chargers and other electronics when not in use to reduce phantom power, a significant source of residential energy use.
- Consider forming a team and participating in one of many environmental initiatives such as Earth Hour on March 19, Green Up Clean Up on April 23, Jane’s Walk on June 6-8, Love My Hood Ward 6 Community Festival on June 25 and the Yellow Fish Road program which can take place at any time weather permitting.
- Opportunities for involvement continue as students enter high school. They can join the school’s EcoClub, the Burlington Transit Youth Advisor program, or volunteer with their class as presenters at the annual Halton Children’s Water Festival.
Students asked insightful questions after the presentation about affordable housing, electric vehicles, Ontario’s current energy supply mix, and building underground parking lots rather than above ground (in keeping with the ‘growing up, not out’ theme).
Take Action Alton Village Public School students! Collectively we can make a difference to shape a better future!