Toronto Waldorf School believes that in our approach to our core “business” in educating students we nurture a level of environmental stewardship which becomes second nature for our students. We think this is level of relationship to the earth is vital to our future, for the people that will hopefully find new ways to address the damage we are doing to our planet.
Our school was the winner of their Conservation and Environmental Sustainability Award given by the Richmond Hill Chamber of Commerce in 2012. We have also been awarded the Schools in Bloom Environmental Achievement Award for six years by the City of Vaughan (2005-09 and 2012). These awards were given on the basis of outstanding overall environmental program, with a focus on how well TWS was able to integrate environmental action into its curriculum.
Walk into the kindergarten and see the use of natural materials, such as wood, beeswax, silk and wool. It is also what you do not see. We have a low volatile organic compound policy which is followed for cleaning products, paints, adhesives, carpets and building materials. In addition to supporting the use of only green products, this challenging program helps to improve the air quality throughout the building.
Bright with direct access to the outside. We use wooden desks and furniture in classrooms to avoid the off gassing found in many commercially built pieces of furniture. The walls in each room are lazured (painted in many layers like watercolour) and the colour scheme relates to the stages of child development.
Our 20+ acre campus has the West Don River running through it. We plant only indigenous species on site, and have planted more than 1500 trees and bushes. We do not use chemical products to treat our green space. The school works closely with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority in their water flow and river quality testing of the West Don River and in preserving the watershed.
We have an organic/biodynamic farm and garden program with greenhouse.
Our playgrounds have wooden CSA approved play structures set amongst our mature forest setting. Tree branches and stumps are left in the playground to be used by students for imaginative play.
We purchased a floor cleaning machine (EC-H20 chemical free cleaning technology – the Nobles brand autoscrubber) that uses only ionized water, rather than any other cleaning product.
We have recycled millions of liters of water in our bathrooms after treatment in the EcoWerks greenhouse.
The Grade 3 class collects all the organic compost from the classrooms and take it to the garden to be composted by farm/garden classes.
Students in every class recycle paper, cans and bottles which are picked up from the school monthly. Printer cartridges are also recycled. It is the Grade 4 class that sorts for all the grade classrooms. We use compostable plates, cups and cutlery for many of our events.
Avoided when possible but items such as fluorescent light which contain small amounts of mercury and the chemical wastes from our labs are both treated by approved facilities.
There is an organic farmers market that takes place every Saturday morning at our Lower Gym, promoting both local and organic/biodynamic food.
At Toronto Waldorf School we believe enabling students to become stewards of our fragile planet cannot be done simply through instruction by a teacher but rather through developing an early and sustained connection to the earth. Our students are engaged in many practical tasks and a love for the outdoors is nurtured throughout our curriculum. If we’re going to save and renew our planet, it requires people with strong relationship to it. In our approach to developing our students into young adults who will be ready to take on this challenge, among many others facing them, we are very conscious of how we nurture this relationship.
Students in our Nursery and Kindergarten play outside and go for walks around our 20+ acres in virtually any weather. They get up to two hours of outdoor time each day.
In their walks, these young children, turn natural objects into tools for their imaginative play, and experience the changing environment through the days, weeks, months and seasons. Our students learn the primary skill of science and environmentalism: clear observation.
This outdoor time continues in our early grades, both in outdoor play and transitioning to practical gardening tasks, camping trips, and the development of canoeing and kayaking skills.
The Grade 3 class empty the compost bins from classrooms and offices three times a week and bring them out to the compost pile at our farm. Our Grade 4 students are responsible for the recycling program in the classrooms.
As part of their studies, the Grade 3 class spend 3 days and two nights on a working farm, engaged in the important everyday tasks of farm life.
Also in Grade 3, the students plant a garden on our campus as part of their studies. They care for this garden throughout the summer as well, and harvest their crop in the early part of Grade 4. The parents of the Grade 4 class prepare a lovely harvest meal, often with bread freshly made from our outdoor wood-burning oven (sometimes from grains grown on their garden and ground into flour by hand!).
In Grade 9 students spend three weeks living and working on a farm, where they are expected to fully participate in the rhythms and labour of real farm life.
Grade 9 Learning Strategies class has taken the lead to educate our community by selling and planting milkweed and native plants to attract butterflies and bees.
There is at least one camping trip each year from Grade 4 to 12. Students are taught about living in wilderness settings, about their own eco-footprint, the effects of pollution on our forests and rivers, and learn aspects of botany, geology, local geography and history, and other elements of the curriculum through experiential trips from 3 – 5 days. These experiential opportunities provide students with a richer and deeper appreciation for what they are learning, and a more “real” connection between what can sometimes be abstract concepts and the health of our environment and the earth.