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A number of schools have undertaken their own unique initiatives to integrate environmental awareness with student learning. Here are a few of their stories:

Frank Ryan Catholic Intermediate RYA-eco-rockets

Grade 8 students at Frank Ryan Catholic Intermediate School were challenged to create bottle rockets using only reused and/or recycled materials. This meant that they had to think creatively about how to do this while still constructing a functional rocket. The students learned that sometimes things that appear to have outlived their usefulness can be reused for other purposes, and how this can benefit the environment.

The grade 7 students decided to conduct an experiment to test whether fish excrement could act as a fertilizer to grow plants. To do this, they placed plants atop a fish tank. The students learned about using environmental resources as opposed to wasting them, by realizing that fish excrement can be a useful tool for growing plants. They also learned how different parts of an ecosystem are interrelated and depend on each other.

Guardian Angels GUA-Butterfly-garden

This year at Guardian Angels School, the grade 6 students weeded and cleaned up the gardens in the fall in order to make way for the planting of a butterfly garden in the spring. Then the grades 3 and 6 classes watered and took care of the garden throughout the school year. The butterfly garden was also used as an outdoor learning centre for subjects such as soil analysis, leaf classification, plant needs and habitats for butterflies and insects. In addition, the entire school planted and took care of sunflowers all around the school yard!

Holy Cross HCR-SmartBoard-sign

One day, noticing that their teacher constantly had to be reminded to shut down the SmartBoard projector, a student at Holy Cross School came up with a brilliant idea. The student suggested that a bright sign be posted on all classroom SmartBoards as a visual reminder to conserve energy. So this creative individual and a classmate dedicated time to visit each classroom as Environmental Ambassadors, in order to educate the school community about the new project. In all their presentations, the team made sure to stress the importance of conserving energy and always looking for ways to improve. The whole school was educated about the project, an email was circulated to staff and an announcement was made on the PA system by the principal to validate the initiative.

Holy Trinity High School ocsb photo holy trinity el salvador trip

For the past five years, Holy Trinity High School has been participating in a reciprocal social justice experience in El Salvador. Students have an opportunity to immerse themselves in the day-to-day struggles of those who live in El Salvador, as well as see how actions taken in Canada can have a direct effect on people living so far away.

The students learn about the possible environmental consequences of Canadian mining in the community they visit, San Jose Las Flores. It is an eye-opening experience for them, as they see the direct impact of Canadian mining companies and practices on a tiny community thousands of kilometres away. They also visit a co-operative dried fruit processing factory in the town of Guarjila. This women’s co-op provides steady work to the economically depressed, and is completely powered by solar panels. The students also hear about what it is like to work in a sweatshop, and learn the differences between that type of system and fair trade practices.

The student participants are transformed by their El Salvador Social Justice experience. As one student described it, “I don't know where to begin to explain how incredible this experience has been. I came into the country of El Salvador with an open mind and an open heart because I had no idea what to expect from this trip. Now, after being here for almost a week, I noticed how much this place has opened my soul… I will never forget all those wonderful, beautiful and spirited people of El Salvador. It is not only the people that have affected me greatly, but it is also the overall environment… One day as we struggled to hike up a mountain we saw an absolutely stunning view of El Salvador. The mountains on the horizon, the beautiful trees and agriculture – all were life changing in itself. This is why I'm determined to help raise awareness of the mining struggle. I want this place to remain beautiful for all people.”

Monsignor Paul Baxter MPB-milkbag

This year at Monsignor Paul Baxter School, students and staff participated in National Sweater Day. They learned about the importance of saving energy, and how to use less heat during winter. Lowering heat, even by one or two degrees, also reduces gas emissions and pollution. They learned that energy conservation is the first step towards reducing reliance on non-renewable sources of energy like natural gas and coal.

Students and staff wore sweaters for two school days, February 6 and 7, to participate in the National Sweater Day sponsored by WWF. All students were encouraged to wear a sweater and sign their classroom pledge on one of those two days. The heat in the school was turned down by 2 degrees. EcoTeam members distributed and collected completed classroom pledges, and reinforced the motto, "Turn down the heat, Turn up your sweater: One or two degrees makes a difference.”

Monsignor Paul Baxter students also learned a simple way of reusing a common plastic object to create mats for people in developing countries. They learned that with a little effort, the plastic from milk bags can be crocheted into mats, which are currently being shipped to countries like Tanzania and Guatemala, in order to provide washable, comfortable sleeping surfaces that are also bug repellent.

First, the students and teachers brought 2L milk bags from home. A group of staff members then supervised groups of EcoTeam students during lunch hours as they organized and flattened the bags. After that, they linked the cut strips and rolled them into balls of plastic yarn, which is sent to parent volunteers who crochet the mats. This well-received project is expected to be ongoing.

Sacred Heart High School

At Sacred Heart High School, the entire school community takes part in their environmentally friendly initiatives. Every two weeks, a new class takes over the responsibilities of sorting and collecting the recycling in the cafeteria at lunch time. They even created a video about it!  
In addition, Mr. Byrne’s Business Leadership class took a primary role in collecting and sorting the recycling every Friday. A representative from each class would bring down the recycling bins, and then Mr. Byrne’s students would track it, ensure the bins weren’t contaminated and then go through the bins to ensure everything was correctly sorted. They made a video about that too!  

St. Mark, St. Francis Xavier, St. Joseph and All Saints High Schools MRH-scallop-drag

In 2013-14, a smaller group of 13 students (Grade 11 & Grade 12 Biology) from St. Mark, St. Francis Xavier, St. Joseph and All Saints were extremely busy with five full days of the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews, NB – pure, hands-on, experiential learning!

The students learned about factors that affect the growth of whale populations and various other species. They collected wild specimens on various beaches in and around St. Andrews, and then brought them back to the lab for physical analysis and response mechanisms. The critters were unharmed and put back safely into the wild. There were also many hikes, guest speakers, and visits to local fishing industries.

In addition, students learned about marine ecosystems and the biodiversity of marine environments. Students were exposed to fish farm techniques and learn about the future sustainability of the fishing industry for Eastern Canada. They are immersed in hands-on learning the entire trip.

The highlight of the trip is always the whale watch boat tour – the students saw whales two hours off the shore of Grand Manan Island, in the middle of the Bay of Fundy. They saw the endangered species of North Atlantic Right Whale, as well as Humpbacks and Porpoises. On the ferry ride over to Grand Manan, they even saw Finback Whales and Porpoises!