Students and staff from St. Louis Living Arts School had an extra special final day before summer break with the announcement that the school had been granted the prestigious Platinum status as an EcoSchool through EcoSchools Canada.

The certification is the top tier of the voluntary program, which helps schools strive to reduce their environmental footprint.

“Our school has a strong ecological mindset. Achieving Platinum Level is really about teamwork and leadership. While we had a strong core team, every staff member and student played a part in this achievement,” said teacher Kerri Favreau.

Education Assistant Nicole Neufeld says the students were very excited to find out they had earned Platinum status.

“The kids at St. Louis have really built a relationship with our environment through this platform. They are very proud of what they’ve accomplished in the last year. If you ask any of them what we’ve done they’ll list off a whole number of things because they’re so proud.”

“They’re building a friendship with the nature around us and because they have that friendship and empathy, like they would a friend, they seek out anything they can do to be better and move forward with our EcoSchools plan,” she said.

EcoSchools works on a points-based system. At the beginning of each school year, the St. Louis EcoTeam creates a plan which is made up of various actions. Each action is given a point value.

That plan is then shared with the entire school, which works together to take the lead on different actions. Some actions are led by classes, while other actions are school wide initiatives such as indoor and outdoor gardening, promoting reusable lunch containers, and using less electricity whenever possible.

Education Assistant Magdalena Angel explains how the certification process has woven into their Living Arts programming seamlessly.

“With the Living Arts we’re really trying to teach basic skills, baking bread, making honey, working with clay, and all of these skills relate to sustainability and caring for the earth and stewardship of the earth. It’s a beautiful partnership and both really weave into each other which makes our vision come alive,” she said.

St. Louis Living Arts School first became certified as an EcoSchool in 2020. In order to receive Platinum status, the school chose to take on more ambitious areas of environmental planning and programming such as buying reusable dishes and cutlery for school lunches and using compostable products for large events. There are composters in each classroom and the school actively monitors paper waste and even water waste.

In order to obtain a Platinum certification, St. Louis met with an EcoSchools assessor. The assessor used a rigorous set of criteria to assess achievement of the plan and had great things to say about the school.

Thank you for sharing this exemplary application with EcoSchools. Your school demonstrated a deep commitment to environmental action that spanned the entire school community. Evidence of creativity, teamwork, and perseverance shines throughout the application. Student and staff leadership is very evident and provides a firm foundation for continued impact in future years. Any out-going EcoTeam members should feel proud of all they've accomplished in their time, and incoming members should feel confident knowing they are set up to succeed.

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Article submitted by the Kenora Catholic District School Board.