Experiences of Secondary School Teachers, Students, and Administrators in One Exemplary EcoSchool: A Description of Successful Practices and Challenges
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This descriptive case study focused on the implementation strategies, experiences of teacher members, and involvement of students in an Ontario environmental education (EE) program called EcoSchools. Data were collected during the 2015–2016 academic year within a Gold certified secondary school in southern Ontario. Data sources included document analysis of 7 years of Eco certification portfolios, observations of EcoTeam activities, and semi-structured interviews with 15 teachers, administrators, and students. The study offered important insights into the successes and challenges of EcoSchools implementation. Successes include democratic EcoTeam dynamics, administrative support, student leadership opportunities, and rewarding greening projects in the school and local community. Data reveal major challenges with low student involvement in the EcoTeam and eco-projects, emphasizing participation over student learning, and a lack of engaging activities for secondary level students. Recommendations for schools include incorporating eco-goals into the school improvement plan, recruiting more student volunteers for school ground greening projects, planning environmental stewardship projects that engage the whole school community, and emphasizing the educational focus of eco-campaigns. Critical recommendations for Ontario EcoSchools program developers include revising activities to specially engage secondary school students, requiring an action plan so EcoSchools make data-driven decisions towards improvements, and promoting school-wide professional development to build capacity for all teachers. It is also recommended that student environmental literacy assessments be initiated across the province to build accountability for the Ontario EE policy framework and encourage EE to hold more of a priority position within secondary schools.