James Thomson Elementary School has been named a finalist in a national competition supporting schools that work at being environmentally conscious.
The 2019 Superpower Your School contest is a collaboration between Earth Day Canada and Staples Canada. 50 elementary schools from across the country are in the running for five prizes of $20,000 of technology products. James Thomson was chosen because it is leading the charge in environmental change, according to learning support teacher Aleicia Vincent.
“Our environmental and sustainability initiatives are school-wide,” she said.
In addition to an indigenous plant garden, the school has a food-producing community garden that students help plant and tend.
“We compost to retain and amend the soil we do have without the use of commercial fertilizers,” added Vincent.
The garden feeds the school through initiatives such as Farm2School, a parent advisory committee-organized program that provides school lunch events with local, sustainably sourced and seasonal ingredients. Students are also involved in learning opportunities with the Tla'amin Nation community and the hatchery, said Vincent. They learn about the lifecycle of salmon by raising salmonids in the class and focusing on issues surrounding traditional food supplies.
“Our traditional Farm2School open-fire salmon barbecue lunch with salmon harvested from the Tla'amin hatchery puts their learning directly onto their plates,” she added.
Principal Jasmin Marshman said the volunteer hours put in by staff and the greater community is what makes these programs so successful.
“I’m grateful that parents and staff are willing to put in so much extra time to help with the many projects, big and small, that we have taken on over the years,” said Marshman. “We all see the benefits and enjoy them together.”
The school’s recycling program is comprehensive and student driven, with older students taking responsibility for collecting and sorting paper, plastic and other recyclables.
“Reusable water bottles are the norm to see throughout classrooms, and litterless lunches and reusable containers are becoming the norm,” said Vincent.
The school is also committed to a hyper-local emphasis on learning in the area of Wildwood, according to Vincent, with students taking walking field trips around the community to visit local farms and parks, and learning about plants and animals that are observable within the area.
“This year a class in our school participated in an education program and initiative that involved painting fish at storm drains around our community to raise awareness about the impact of contaminated water on aquatic life,” she said.
Other creative solutions to reducing power use in fun ways include a bike-powered kitchen blender and garden sprinkler system.
“Our students truly learn that in order to care for the world, we have to first understand and care for our own communities,” added Vincent. “In addition to field trip and cultural activities and opportunities, students learn about Tla'amin ways of life, sustainable practices and traditional uses for plants and animals in the area.”
From the earliest grades students learn about growing and preserving food, cooking and eating locally, and how the seasons impact where we eat, live and learn.
The school is thrilled to be finalists for this award, adds Vincent. “The idea of new technology that can push our environmental initiatives further by documenting our experiences and further reducing paper-waste through things like document sharing and tech-based collaboration is exciting. Our values and ideas are 21st century, and we need to bring our tech capabilities up to speed.”
Winning schools will be notified in late April.