A Systems Thinking Approach to Green Schools
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The school facility is positioned to provide contextual cues for informal and formal learning in environmental education (EE). Evidence suggests that incorporating the school facility with EE also provides a context in which students can engage with environmental issues like waste management and energy conservation. Using the school building as a learning tool has been well documented and is supported as an instructional approach in Ontario’s public schools. The purpose of this study is to explore the interacting attributes of Ontario EcoSchools to identify themes supporting the integration of the school facility with EE. This qualitative study examines how this occurs within the context of whole school sustainability. This is achieved through a secondary data analysis of the results from 2017/2018 EcoSchool Platinum applications to determine how these schools are integrating the school facility with EE. Platinum certification allows high achieving schools to deepen their existing green school program. A school’s building and operations are important components in achieving school board policies for EE and sustainability while also supporting national and provincial climate change mitigation and sustainability objectives. The findings in this investigation highlight the themes, Formal/Curriculum Learning, Non-formal Learning, Building Attributes, Cross-Cutting and Partnerships within the school facility that is a sub-system functioning as a place where students are learning about environmental issues through direct and indirect engagement with their surroundings. Integrating the school facility with EE reflected non-linear approaches to EE where students were reflexive as they engaged in sustainable practice while co-creating their sense of place with the school facility.