By Calvin Dubray and the Horsefly Green Team —
This endeavour started with adult mentors posing a challenge to the Student Leadership Team at Horsefly Elementary Junior Secondary. The challenge was to propose a question that would form the foundation of a Youth Healthy Inquiry Project. Students came up with the following:
What is your question?
How much can we reduce our school’s carbon footprint in one year?
What plans do you have to answer your question? (What steps will you take?)
1. We will set up recycling stations in each classroom (including Strong Start) and other high-use areas such as the staff room and school kitchen. Recycling stations consist of one returnable/refundable bin, one plastics bin, one paper bin, one cardboard bin, and one composting bin.
2. There will be a “kick-off” assembly and student council students will do a demonstration for each class explaining what items are to be put in the different categorized bins.
3. Student helpers from each class will be responsible for emptying the bins into our compost barrels outside and to the central (big bins) for delivery to town. Before they empty the bins, students will weigh the recyclables (in kg) and transfer the data to a classroom graph.
4. Coinciding with recycling, we have a Green Team monitoring power use and opportunities for reduction such as lights on in areas not being occupied, heat thermostats way above normal, computers on that are not in use, and other items that consume hydro or propane. We obtained a printout of last year’s month by month energy consumption from our manager of facilities and transportation to give us a baseline. We will compare this year’s figures with last year’s totals to see if our measures have been effective.
5. Monthly incentives/challenges will be provided to classrooms via Student Council
What do you hope to achieve?
We hope to reduce our school’s footprint over the year and increase student and staff knowledge of recycling and power consumption reduction with the hope this will translate into discussion for creating carbon footprint reduction strategies at home.
How will you know?
In student groups weighing recyclable materials, we will use those weights to total how much material has been removed from the landfill. We will also use last year’s month by month energy consumption report from our manager of facilities and transportation as a baseline and compare it to this year’s consumption to see if our Green Team strategies are effective.
To date, each month we have reduced our power consumption compared to the same month in a previous year. We have removed over 40,000 returnable containers that were destined for the landfill. Students have reduced the amount of waste from recycling as indicated by our custodian from three bags to one bag at the end of the day. All recycled items are brought to the main drop off area in the Foods Room for tallying and weighing and then further bagged and transported by the principal to the town recycling station.
We have expanded our program to include paper towel in the bathrooms for “brown material” usage in our compost bins. We have now included metal to be recycled in the classrooms. Our compost will be used for soil in our Spuds in Tubs program and we will have two compost boxes built outside the school in the spring. Students are actively involved in this program and are aware we are making a difference. It has sparked interest in our Parent Advisory Committee and community members communicating with the Cariboo Regional District regarding recycling drop off bins at the local landfill.
The Horsefly Elementary Junior Secondary Green Team includes efforts of the entire school and came about as the result of our student leadership led inquiry based on reducing Horsefly Elementary Junior Secondary School’s carbon footprint with start-up funding assistance from Dash BC and the Healthy Schools Network.
Each classroom assigns two students per week to be responsible for weighing and charting the amount of recyclable material (plastic, paper, cardboard, aluminum, returnable items, and compost) and then transferring it to our central location to be transported into town by the principal.
This has inspired local community members to look at engaging in discussions with the Cariboo Regional District for possible installation of recycling containers at the local refuse transfer station. Using energy consumption data from previous school years, students monitor and compare light, heat, and other electrical usage in efforts to reduce. So far the methods have been successful.
Additionally, Horsefly Elementary Junior Secondary’s senior class, the 3 Rs Team (Reuse, Reduce, Recycle), produced a video highlighting the classic example of recycling bin misuse. The video, called, “The Green Team Strikes Again!”, was submitted into Science World’s BC Green Games, an annual contest designed to encourage K–12 students to document and share their environmental action stories on topics such as energy conservation, transportation, schoolyard greening, recycling, composting, and community stewardship. BC Green Games is a province-wide competition for students designed to motivate action, enable sharing, and reward and celebrate the green efforts of schools in BC.
Submissions to the BC Green Games use creative media such as videos and photo-essays to document BC students’ current eco-actions.
“Viewer’s Choice” contest voting took place from March 1 to March 31 with four winners collecting $500 and the judging for the top 10 elementary and top 10 secondary entries receiving $1000.
Horsefly Elementary Junior Secondary hopes to be one of the schools chosen, as the students worked hard on this project. In fact, Fortis BC, a major sponsor of the BC Green Games, has asked the students’ permission to use their photo on their website and possibly in their promotional material. This is a great recognition of the work the students have done and they are looking forward to seeing themselves in the spotlight.
Calvin Dubray has been the principal of Horsefly Elementary Junior Secondary School for two years and was previously at Alexis Creek Elementary Junior Secondary as Principal for four years. He has a passion for making a difference in education and in particular “hands-on” experiential learning that allows students to be immersed in global concerns. The school’s Recycling Project was inspired by his own passion for recycling and the opportunity for the students to lead an inquiry based on their methods of reducing their carbon footprint.