WWF and Canadian Schools
This spring, 28 schools across Canada will see their environmental dreams come true thanks to WWF’s Green CommUnity School Grants Program funded by Loblaw Companies Limited. I spoke recently about the program with Christina Topp, VP Marketing & Communications, WWF Canada.
Any Canadian elementary or secondary school that is working on a green initiative is eligible to apply for grants of up to $5,000. “We realized what we wanted to spark was creativity and innovation and to foster a sense of community at solving everyday challenges. Those are unique to schools depending on where they are, how big they are, and what the resources are that are available to them.”
78 projects have been funded. “The ones that first captured my heart were ones that involved bicycle programs and transportation programs,” Christina continued. “Either repairing bikes and getting them into the hands of students and families who might not have them, or using them as an educational tool to take kids on field trips in their community as opposed to always getting on a bus or in a car.” It’s a nice way of getting fitness and tackling the big environmental challenge of transportation.
A new project that has been funded is at a small school on Denny Island, BC. “From my perspective it’s in the middle of wilderness. Yet part of their challenge is making kids feel more connected and secure and feeling connected to nature. […] They are now bringing in scientists and field cameras to try to make students feel less afraid and more comfortable and more understanding of the world around them.”
There are also “wonderful programs across the country of schools creating gardens that they are integrating into their science curriculum and into their food programs. And they’re feeding families and schools, and they’re coming in over summers to harvest crops and tend the gardens. It really is amazing, the passion we’re seeing.”
“The plastic bag charge really inspired the thinking behind the whole program, because it was a simple everyday action of adding a charge to plastic bags.” The 5 cent charge has “reduced plastic bag usage at Loblaw by 73%. That’s over 1 billion bags.” Loblaw deserves credit for being “really committed to enabling this kind of change.”
“Getting kids into outdoor classrooms, or into gardens or on their bikes. The feedback we’re getting from teachers is that kids are more engaged, have more energy, [and] they are seeing a benefit on broader learning”.
“The program started off as a three year commitment so we’re in the second year. Our funding comes from our partner Loblaw through partial proceeds from their plastic bag charge but also from a corporate donation,” Christina told me. There is an annual commitment of $200,000. “We’re in the middle of talking about extending it so it’s likely that it will go on for another three years.”