Our vision for Canada is empowering youth through education to be engaged and passionate about taking action to care for their environment. After a few Eco Leader students attended the EcoLeague Youth Forum in October 2018, they wanted to create a similar sort of experience for our entire school body (over 500 students!) These students presented this idea to the rest of our Eco Leaders (students in Grades 4-8 who are part of the Eco Club). They began discussions in groups according to their interests (recycling, composting, reducing plastic use, reusing, clean energy, water scarcity, invasive species, garbage pollution, water pollution, and pollinators). Then they began to research information about their chosen topic. Lastly, they began to think of ways to creatively engage their peers in learning activities, with a goal of coming up with activities for kindergarten, primary, junior and intermediates, made a list of the materials they would need, and prepared a display board about their topic.
This project was entirely student led. The students chose the topics to study / research, spent months finding information and ideas for activities, then spent many recesses, as well as several days after school, preparing all the things they would need to run their workshops. It was amazing to watch them evolve as leaders, negotiating compromise when there were conflicting ideas of how to proceed, and figuring out how to get the job done. On April 26th, our student leaders arrived early, set up their workshop stations, and were prepared to teach classes about their topics. They ran workshops all day to rotating classes of primary and junior students, making slight changes as the day continued to make things run more smoothly. Due to having such a large school, we were unable to include the kindergarten and intermediate students on the same day. A scaled down version will include these divisions in the coming weeks. Some of the awesome activities that students participated in were: making wildflower seed bombs or bee crafts after learning about the importance of pollinators; learning about how our daily choices affects the cleanliness of our water & participating in a mock version of the Cape Town Water Crisis; learning about invasive species and answering questions in a Kahoot; learning about what happens to litter and watching short videos about pollution; learning about the plastic water bottle issue and participating in a tap vs. bottled water taste test (Guelph has excellent tap water!); learning to correctly sort our waste; learning to reuse by creating bird feeders out of milk cartons; learning about ways to conserve energy and participating in an energy scavenger hunt; and learning about our new vermicomposter (purchased for this project).
Reflection & Celebration
Our Eco Day was a lot of fun! Comments from staff and students, as well as from our School Board Eco Lead who visited, was that it was an incredible, creative, fun, educational day! The most exciting part was seeing the passion in the students leading / running the workshops. Their preparation and confidence really showed as they presented their information and led their peers through the activities. They all had a great day and were really “pumped” by this experience! They want to do it again next year!
The greatest challenge we experienced was just getting the entire group together regularly to plan and prepare. With so many other extra-curricular activities going on in our school, there were often conflicts. This is why we finally resorted to meeting after school as the date loomed closer. Another challenge was to be able to achieve our goal of presenting to the entire school, since it is such a large school. We ended up doing all of the primary and junior classes in one day, then planned to present a scaled down version for the kindergarten & intermediate divisions. Some junior students did not feel comfortable presenting to the Grade 7 & 8 students.
To celebrate, on the day of the workshops, I set up a treat room for all the student workshop presenters. They all had a couple of breaks throughout the day and they could then relax and enjoy some special food and have a little time to reflect and enjoy the success of the day. We took lots of pictures for our school yearbook.
We also took time to debrief the following week. This was a very positive experience!