The French International School Cousteau received a personal message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau!! for their Eco-Schools accreditation ceremony after becoming the first Eco-School in Canada.
What impact did it have at the school to receive a personal letter from the Prime Minister?
A wow effect among students! They could not believe that the Prime Minister would pay attention to what they had accomplished....we are a small school!
It was another way for them to realize that their accomplishments had some "value" in the adult world, and they were not only proud, but they felt really empowered.
You are now the first accredited Eco-School in Canada – why did you decide to take up this challenge?
It is my first year at this school, I moved from Mexico a few months ago. While the school was in the process of hiring me, everyone talked a lot about "their" Eco-Schools project. I could feel that Eco-School was the most shared element of the school's life for the last two years. If memory serves, the initiative was started by the Scientific Attaché at the French Consulate in 2016. I think that this particular school community has had ecology and planet protection in its genes since the beginning, so moving forward with Eco-Schools was something natural.
What have been the benefits for the school and the pupils?
More than the goals only, I see the Eco-Schools accreditation process as priceless, as it gives students a strong voice. It teaches them to structure their thoughts and plan actions accordingly. It teaches them to listen to each other, and to come to agreements. And, for a small international school like ours, it helps us foster internationally minded students: they realize that, despite their differences, they are part of one humanity by setting themselves shared goals that will impact the world, not only their community.
How have you engaged the surrounding community?
The flag ceremony was an opportunity to go public and invite the local community. Also, during the past two years, students were engaged in actions towards the community, of course.
What are the schools ambitions for your next Green Flag?
To engage more with the surrounding community, to open our doors and to develop more service learning opportunities.
What advice would you give to other schools in Canada considering taking the Eco-Schools accreditation?
Dare to give students a voice in your school, dare to let them fail at times. And, have fun!
Eco-Schools Is one of five programmes administrated by the Foundation for Environmental Education.