OUR CSL PROJECT
For our CSL project, we created a radio documentary for CJSR’s Terra Informa radio show. In our documentary, we looked into sustainable actions that are currently happening within schools to educate about accessible ways students and teachers can engage in sustainability. Through our research we found several schools around Alberta that are finding innovative ways to integrate sustainability into the classroom. We spoke to Linda Wight (a teacher from Brightview Elementary School) and to several students from Cochrane High School about the projects they are involved with.
Linda described the process of creating an outdoor classroom/naturescape for the students to use. Not only has it benefitted students by providing an engaging space to explore and connect with nature, it has also benefitted the community as a whole. Linda described to us how community members have been brought together by developing and maintaining the space. It has become both an integral part of the school and of the community.
We also had the joy of speaking with Jessica, Taylor, Montana, and Julia - grade 10 and 12 students from Cochrane High School who are involved in a school sustainability committee. The students described to us the many projects that the committee has undertaken, including a school garden fed by rainwater, solar panel installation, an outdoor green space, and acquiring a school wind turbine. The school committee is student-driven, and we were amazed by their passion and resourcefulness. They received support and inspiration from their teachers, who introduced them to the concept of sustainability and guided their efforts in gaining resources for their projects.The students worked to obtain grants and funding for each of their projects, and described some of the challenges that they faced throughout their work, including community resistance to the wind turbines. The students learned that they had to increase communication with community stakeholders before making decisions that extend beyond their school.
Both interviews highlighted the huge positive impact that sustainability education has had on their schools and communities. While working on their projects, many people were able to get involved and benefit from the results of their actions. The high school students described that their involvement in these projects has increased awareness of sustainability issues for the entire school population. During their efforts to install a large wind turbine at their school, though it was ultimately denied, the town of Cochrane developed a Renewable Energy Framework as a guide for future projects. In speaking to Linda and the students from Cochrane, we were reminded that all people have a role to play (administration, students, teachers, school boards, and community members) in pursuing sustainable development, and that small steps toward change are just as important as large-scale projects.
As teachers, we have the power to both create students who are well-educated about sustainability and empowered to be leaders of positive change, and to integrate sustainable practices into our classrooms and schools. We affect change both through our short-term actions in the classroom and through long-term environmental education that shapes our students.