UGDSB Environmental Learning Centres
The Upper Grand District School Board is committed to fulfilling the mandate set out by the Ministry to “prepare students with the knowledge, skills perspectives and practices they need to be environmentally responsible citizens.” and to “provide opportunities within the classroom and the community for students to engage in actions that deepen this understanding.” (Acting Today, Shaping Tomorrow, page 6)
In 2013, the UGDSB finished the construction of five Environmental Learning Centres (ELCs) which are stand-alone classrooms built using sustainable, energy-efficient and eco-friendly designs. The ELCs are located in diverse geographic locations throughout the board at five elementary schools:
- Island Lake P.S. in Orangeville
- J.D. Hogarth P.S. in Fergus
- Minto-Clifford P.S. in Harriston
- Rockwood Centennial P.S. in Rockwood
- Westwood P.S. in Guelph
At Island Lake P.S, J.D. Hogarth P.S and Minto-Clifford P.S, the ELCs are permanent, two-classroom structures that utilize a number of environmentally friendly features such as straw bale or Durisol block walls, rainwater cisterns, solar to air heat collectors, light harvesting systems, as well as other green initiatives to promote energy conservation.
The two buildings at Rockwood Centennial P.S and Westwood P.S are prototype portable classrooms that were built off site by Evolve Builders, a green construction firm, and then moved to their current locations. These naturally built portables have a longer life span than regular portables.
They also feature a straw bale insulated wall construction and use local, sustainable materials, energy efficient LED lighting and healthier options when it comes to low VOC paints, non-toxic finishes and adhesives.
While of environmental and economic significance, the excitement generated by this initiative is focused on the learning opportunities it provides to our staff, students and school community. Using their classrooms as real-world examples, students engage in cross-curriculum based lessons on energy conservation, renewable resources, and the solar advantages of building position.
Every year the teachers in the ELCs are given the opportunity to get together with an environmental curriculum leader to take part in collaborative inquiry. For example, in past years classes integrated media curriculum expectations to create a promotional video of the unique features of their classroom so that their learning can be shared with a wider audience.
In addition, students in some of the ELCs were paired with digital pen pals in another ELC location. These students then had an exciting face-to-face meeting and they got to know one another in person and share their unique environmental experiences.
The ELCs are always open to receiving visitors to increase the learning of these centres across the school board. The first ELC at Island Lake P.S. has now hosted tours for hundreds of students.
Future plans to continue to build on and share the experiences learned in these remarkable centres will promote the goals of the UGDSB’s new Environmental Sustainability Action Plan to further enhance environmental stewardship in our board.