It’s easy be­ing green

Toronto’s pri­vate schools are get­ting an eco-makeover thanks to stu­dent-led ini­tia­tives

The Kids Post - - Learning - By David Pater­son

When the stu­dents at Haver­gal Col­lege for girls re­turn to classes this fall, they will find a shiny new ad­di­tion to one of the build­ings at their cam­pus near Av­enue and Lawrence.

Sit­ting on the roof of the school’s the­atre will be a 35-foot by 10-foot so­lar panel ca­pa­ble of gen­er­at­ing around five kilo­watts of elec­tric­ity, enough to power a good chunk of the lights in the build­ing.

Haver­gal’s so­lar ar­ray was in­stalled over the sum­mer af­ter girls in the school’s en­vi­ron­ment club floated the idea of em­ploy­ing more re­new­able power sources on cam­pus. Un­doubt­edly a vic­tory for stu­dent-led ini­tia­tives, the pan­els are also an ex­am­ple of a broader trend to­ward green­ing both cam­puses and cur­ricu­lums that has been sweeping through Toronto’s in­de­pen­dent schools.

In re­cent years, more and more in­sti­tu­tions are for­mal­iz­ing en­ergy re­duc­tion and other en­vi­ron­men­tal plans and us­ing those ini­tia­tives to bol­ster their teach­ing.

At Up­per Canada Col­lege, the school man­age­ment launched its Green School Project back in 2002, to in­crease use of green tech­nolo­gies at its mid­town cam­pus.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Steve McLean says the project has en­com­passed ev­ery­thing from in­cor­po­rat­ing en­ergy-ef­fi­cient ma­te­ri­als in new build­ings to in­stalling wa­ter foun­tains for stu­dents to fill reusable wa­ter bot­tles.

McLean says that stu­dents at the col­lege are en­cour­aged to keep track of how many plas­tic bot­tles have been saved as a way to mo­ti­vate them to con­tinue their eco-ef­forts and to help in­still in them a sense of en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity that they will take into their fu­ture lives.

It’s this in­ter­sec­tion be­tween en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism and ed­u­ca­tion that is the ex­cit­ing part of green ini­tia­tives for many ed­u­ca­tors. Lisa An­der­son, fa­cil­i­ties di­rec­tor at Haver­gal, says teach­ers will be able to use the school’s new so­lar pan­els as ed­u­ca­tional aids in many dif­fer­ent classes.

“Ob­vi­ously it will be help­ful in the science cur­ricu­lum, when they are learn­ing about elec­tric­ity and when they are learn­ing about green ini­tia­tives, but it will even be use­ful in busi­ness classes when we can start talk­ing about what is the value of power when you are pur­chas­ing elec­tric­ity from Toronto Hy­dro ver­sus get­ting it from the sun.”

Schools are also us­ing green ini­tia­tives to get in­ter­ested stu­dents to meet in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als and dis­cuss the projects. Mem­bers of Haver­gal’s en­vi­ron­ment club had the op­por­tu­nity to meet with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the firm that won the con­tract to in­stall their so­lar pan­els, and over in Rosedale’s Brank­some Hall, stu­dents were able to present their ideas for a green roof on the school’s new ath­let­ics cen­tre to the ar­chi­tect de­sign­ing it.

Ac­cord­ing to Ju­lia Drake, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor at Brank­some Hall, it can also be use­ful to take the cur­ricu­lum to the out­doors. With their greater re­sources, many in­de­pen­dent schools are able to main­tain green ar­eas on cam­pus or else­where around the city (Up­per Canada Col­lege has a 430-acre es­tate just out­side Nor­val), which can be used to in­spire and ed­u­cate.

At Brank­some, girls make use of an “out­door class­room” in a wood­lot to learn about plants and an­i­mals, to con­nect with na­ture through art or just to re­lax.

“We are just steps from Yonge and Bloor but you’d think you are in a pro­vin­cial park,” says Drake. What bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment to in­spire?

Brank­some Hall stu­dents study­ing in their “out­door class­room”

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