Herb Campbell Public School

Local Heroes: You need only to flip through the mountain of documentation to know the environmental program at Herb Campbell Public School goes way beyond a regular school curriculum.

November 21, 2011 | | Back Issues | Community | Local Heroes | Winter 2011

Herb Campbell Public School: One of our 2011 Local Heroes


You need only to flip through the mountain of documentation to know the environmental program at Herb Campbell Public School goes way beyond a regular school curriculum. This is a passion.

Kindergarten teacher Kim Clark and Grade 3 teacher Olivier St-Hilaire are modest about the movement they started at this 730-student elementary school, located in the hamlet of Campbell’s Cross at Caledon’s south end.

According to Olivier, “It just kind of grew.” Maybe so, but in only four short years the school has developed one of the most comprehensive and envied approaches to environmental education in the country.

The school holds gold certification in the Ontario Eco Schools Program, which is based on five pillars: energy conservation, waste minimization, school ground greening, curriculum and environmental stewardship.

That means the students at Herb Campbell consistently go the extra mile. The waste reduction program, for example, includes an innovative “upcycling” program in which non-recyclable materials, such as juice pouches, are collected and sold to a private recycler. Kim says, “One of our parents packs them all up and ships them off.”

As part of the schoolyard greening, students planted hundreds of native seedlings around the nine-acre property, and their studies include monitoring larger trees on the property. They have also put in a community garden that includes an outdoor classroom and butterfly and vegetable gardens.

Last spring the school and its environmental council published a book called Discover Wildlife Near You: An Outdoor Nature Guide. It features student-created profiles of 56 species of common local critters. The book demonstrates how an environmental curriculum can cover a variety of subjects at once. Each profile contained elements of math, science, geography and writing. The book project also gave students the opportunity to learn about publishing. Sometimes even gym class involves weeding the garden.

“One of our concerns is community,” Olivier says. “We want kids to take what they learn here and apply it throughout their lives.”

To further that end the school invites outside organizations to bring in their expertise. Credit Valley Conservation, for example, offers lessons on watershed conservation. And Eat Local Caledon presents a cycle of workshops related to growing, cooking and eating local food. Next year the students will also learn about selling food. Come spring they plan to expand the vegetable garden to include root crops, gourds (helped by trustee Stan Cameron, a self-described “avid gourd grower”), and the Three Sisters (corn, squash and beans) of Native agricultural practice. In October the students will sell their harvest at their own on-site farmers’ market.

For their dedication to improving the health of the planet, Herb Campbell students won the 2009 grand prize in the junior category of Earth Day Canada’s Great EcoKids Challenge. This year the school was the national winner of the Green School, Green Futures Award, sponsored by FedEx and Tree Canada. The award included a cheque for $3,000, which will be used for future environmental projects.

Both Kim and Olivier credit the support of the whole school community for making the environmental program a success, but Principal Matt McCutcheon shakes his head at their modesty: “Don’t let them fool you. I’ll bet they work 70 or 80 hours a week.”

As every kid’s favourite frog has observed, “It’s not easy being green.”

Our fourth annual celebration of extraordinary people, meet our other heroes

About the Author More by Jeff Rollings

Jeff Rollings is a freelance writer living in Caledon.


1 Comment

  1. Allan drive has just completed Pahse 1 of the Jan Scott Memorial Outdoor Classroom. This outdoor learning space was undertaken by the entire school and headed up by our Green Team. On the heals of this article about Herb Campbell’s efforts to act in an environmentally responsible manner, I thought you might like to cover a piece on this in your next issue.

    The Parent rep ( Sandhya Casson) leading this up in conjunction with the Green team ( lead teacher Diane Gahagan).

    Sue-Anne Vincze from Allan Drive Middle School on Nov 28, 2011 at 9:54 am | Reply

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