Skip To Main Content

Strategic Sustainability


Strategic Sustainability

By Drew Gulyas, Director of Faculty Development and Innovation


Environmental sustainability is an increasing concern for today's youth. In the face of an ever-evolving reality, it is important to equip young boys with the knowledge and skills needed to respond to these pressing issues. The Sterling Hall School is committed to infusing hope into these efforts.

Our conception of hope is firmly rooted in our Sterling Character Strengths program. Hope emerges as a character strength that bridges optimistic visions of the future with the mindful actions of today. Understanding the unique ways boys learn, SHS is dedicated to empowering our students to delve into the subjects that resonate most deeply with them. We are progressively forging student-led, experiential learning opportunities that immerse boys in regenerative actions, both on our campus and within our local community. We recognize that early experiences in the natural world nurture enduring positive attitudes toward the planet. Our boys are not just learning; they are actively making a positive impact on the environment, laying the foundation for a healthy future.

In July 2023, I had the privilege to join a delegation of Sterling Hall educators that embarked on a journey to the International Boys School Coalition conference in Auckland, New Zealand. There, we shared our school's forward-thinking approach to environmental education with a global community of boys' schools. Our approach is underpinned by several key insights:

Guided by the insights we gained from Maori educators in New Zealand, who passionately shared their connection to their homeland and the value of intimate knowledge of the natural world, we recounted the journey of our evolving environmental education program at SHS.

We opened with gratitude as we described how our Board of Governors and Strategic Leadership Team committed to making environmental sustainability a strategic priority for our school. This commitment enables SHS to allocate the necessary resources to develop a school-wide curriculum that emphasizes environmental sustainability. The commitment also enables us to evolve our campus and operations with a focus on environmentally responsible actions.

The tangible results of our sustainability initiatives are most evident in the evolution of our curriculum, which consistently emphasizes sustainability principles.

One noteworthy example that garnered attention at the conference was our Mud Kitchen, a playful outdoor learning space nestled within the Ferris Eco Garden. Here, during rainy recesses and outdoor education classes, our youngest learners joyfully immerse themselves in the natural world, forging a lifelong connection with the planet. Through these playful activities, our boys not only grow comfortable with outdoor experiences but also sharpen their critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and communication skills. The Mud Kitchen serves as a transformative learning space that instils a deep respect for nature.

In recent years years, our students have actively participated in establishing and maintaining various gardens across our campus. These gardens serve as powerful educational tools, teaching our boys about the symbiotic relationships between plants and insects, and the profound concept of interconnectedness. Students gain insights into the origins of food and their role in nurturing the process. They also learn responsibility as they care for the garden, participate in harvests, and collect seeds for future cycles of life.


“I love EcoClub. I get to make things, experiment and express my creativity. When I'm outdoors, I feel more free to experiment and learn. I can't wait to go next year." 

Julian J. (Grade 4 Student)


As our boys learn and grow, they are provided with opportunities for taking actions that stem from learning. One flourishing example of this is the Grade 6 science unit on biodiversity. In September 2022, these students identified a patch of campus along SHS Drive lacking any biodiversity. They applied in-class learning, design thinking, and feedback from school leaders to devise a creative solution, which they implemented later that school year. Beyond creating a vibrant and regenerated garden, the boys gained invaluable experience in employing the scientific method for real-world problem-solving.

Our boys have always been the stewards of our vibrant campus, and their roles in shaping its evolution grow more significant each day. Their heightened sensitivity to environmental sustainability and their deep desire to care for the land have transformed our school into a place where the land itself becomes a teacher. We were honoured to share this message with schools from around the world, and we are increasingly heartened by the growing number of schools joining us in this vital endeavor.

  • Curriculum
  • Learning
  • sustainability