Manitoulin Secondary School, Central Manitoulin Public School both achieve top standing in national EcoSchool awards

MANITOULIN—Two Manitoulin Island schools have been awarded EcoSchools Canada platinum certification, the highest level a school can attain. EcoSchools certification represents environmental excellence for Kindergarten through Grade 12. Participation in the program allows students, teachers, school administrators, custodians and parents to get a clear picture of their current environmental practices and to take action to reduce their environmental footprint.

“I can confirm that both Manitoulin Secondary School (M’Chigeeng) and Central Manitoulin Public School (Mindemoya) have received the EcoSchools Canada platinum certification level, the highest level a school can achieve,” said Galen Drinnan, EcoSchools Canada senior communications manager last Friday.  He pointed out schools that participate in the program can achieve four levels of certification, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. 

“This is the second year in a row we have received the platinum certification level,” said Chris Theijsmeijer, who along with fellow teacher Yana Bauer, helps with the school’s student-run Share/Go Green program in organizing events with the students. Teachers Mike Zegil and Paul Becks also help out. “Other groups like the Robotics team also help out as well,” he said.

“This year, we were well above the platinum certification of 100 points, having accumulated 150 points (based on a point system for all events/activities the school takes part in),” stated Mr. Theijsmeijer. 

Mr. Theijsmeijer explained that some of the new initiatives in which the school has been involved this year include, “the grade nine eco-hero articles which are published in The Manitoulin Expositor, expanding our Earth Day activities this year, including planting about 70 trees.” he said. The school also took part in a couple of events, picking up garbage in the local community. “Then we have standard programs like the Goos (good on one side paper) reusing paper initiative and raising bees.”

“We have also created a no-mow zone on the school field, as well as hosting used battery collections, and organizing recycling events,” said Mr. Theijsmeijer. “We’re doing our best to help the environment, and every year we add a little more, to make everyone in the school a little more geared to environmental thinking and in decision making.”

Cori Davy, a CMPS teacher who is involved in the environmental  program at the Mindemoya school, pointed out this year’s platinum level certification for the school is the third time it has attained this status.

“What didn’t we do in the school this year (to benefit the environment)?” she said. “We held a clothing swap in school, so if students have any clothes that are too small, they could bring them into the school and swap for another clothing item.”

“We planted a lot of fruit trees for our orchard in the schoolyard,” said Ms. Davy. “We painted yellow fish at storm drains in Mindemoya to remind people not to put oil or gas into storm drains as it ends up in the water, in lake Mindemoya where we get our drinking water. We also went on a water walk and event on Lake Mindemoya to acknowledge the importance of water in our life and to promise to further take action in our own lives to do whatever we can to maintain good water on Manitoulin.”

Ms. Davy also pointed out the school once again held its composting program, litterless lunches program, outside day in October so hydro power is not used, the Goos reusing paper initiative and the school also increased its no-mow zone this year and increased its own raised garden items for a school harvest to be held in the fall.

“The students are really engaged in all of these environmental initiatives and when school activities are held, everyone gets involved and is engaged,” added Ms. Davy.

“We typically open the environmental certification program in September,” said Mr. Drinnan. “The really cool thing is that the last couple of years, there has been a reenergizing of schools applying for the EcoSchools certification program. There are about 50 themes/action they can participate in and which a school may want to achieve.”

“In late September, the schools register for the certification program,” said Mr. Drinnan. “And then, for each of the 50 actions they can take, each is worth a certain number of points.”

“Our objective or goal is to make all actions under the program fit in with the schools and grades curriculum,” said Mr. Drinnan. “So, it doesn’t mean the school has to have an external environmental club, but just to have this as part of their classroom and curriculum. Then during the fall, winter and spring, the schools log into the ECA and in the May, the schools submit an application to us.”

“We have an assessment team that reviews all applications and looks at all the actions schools are taking and learning,” said Mr. Drinnan. “Both MSS and CMPS should be super proud of themselves. We encourage a lot of celebration and recognition for achieving platinum certification, for sure.”

Mr. Drinnan added that, for this year, just over 1,400 schools in Canada applied for EcoSchools program certification, with over 1,000 being certified. About 330-plus schools achieved the platinum level designation.