It has been an extremely busy but productive year for education, with students all over Canada experiencing modified learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. While educators and students have been constantly pivoting to tackle the curveballs ahead, we at GreenLearning are proud to have supported school communities with great success.
This year, we hosted a series of six challenges, each one focused on a different environmental topic and one of these was our new program called Eco 360: Transitioning to a Circular Economy!
GreenLearning’s Challenges for the 2020-21 school year were School Earth Hour Challenge and Home Energy Audit Challenge (both of which are a part of the Energy Revealed program), Re-Energy Challenge, Decoding Carbon Challenge, Flood:Ed Challenge, and Eco 360 Challenge. These challenges provided a great way for educators to encourage STEM-based learning for virtual, in-class and hybrid learning options. Each challenge is connected to one of our curriculum-based programs.
In total, our challenges reached 5,828 student participants across Canada and we were excited to have received submissions from schools in four provinces: Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and New Brunswick. These schools put their best thinking to the test and competed for the first, second and third prizes of $1000, $500 and $250 respectively. Here are the challenge winners along with brief descriptions of their projects.
Our Re-Energy Challenge tasks students with building a functioning renewable energy model.
- First Place: Robert Tymofichuk, Teacher at New Myrnam School, St. Paul, Alberta.
Students at New Myrnam School were captivated by the electric vehicle activity. As a result, they opted to design and construct a renewable energy, zero emissions vehicle using old golf carts that were purchased from a local community organization. These vehicles that were once in poor condition were then restored and refurbished until they were near new.
- Second Place: Kathy Boulton, Teacher at St. Francis Xavier High School, Edmonton, Alberta.
Six teams of students each built a solar oven. Each team collaborated and communicated within themselves to calculate how much power would be required to cook their food in a conventional oven. And they discovered that on a per day basis, they would be saving 0.96 kWh on electricity, 0.79 kg GHG on the environment and $0.07 dollars.
- Third Place: Erin Marceau, Homeschooler at Willow Home Education, Calgary, Alberta.
Out of the need to warm their swimming pool in an environmentally friendly and economical way, this homeschool family built a solar blanket - a device that would help raise the water temperature and hold the heat in. Through this project, they have been able to learn where energy comes from, how it can be harnessed for everyday use and its effects on the environment.
Decoding Carbon Challenge
The Decoding Carbon Challenge explores Canada’s role in global GHG emissions, and challenges students to create a climate action policy for Canada.
- First Place: Nicole Lorusso, Teacher at Queen Margaret’s School, Duncan, British Columbia.
Katia Bannister is a grade 12 student whose initial ideas were sparked by regulations around afforestation and deforestation. She then created her own set of policies in consultation with community and government stakeholders to ensure sustainable development. These policies could also mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis by restoring the ecological integrity of ecosystems done through reducing and sequestering carbon.
- Second Place: Stephanie Buchan, Teacher at Crescent Heights High School, Calgary, Alberta.
Students created a series of climate policies for Canada that took into the consideration the following measures for mitigation and adaptation: a lower carbon fuel standard, transportation demand management, early retirement of power plants, limiting oil sands emissions, worker training, tree planting and much more!
- Third Place: Warren Lake, Teacher at Robert Thirsk High School, Calgary, Alberta.
Students compared climate policies used in Canada with other nations of the world and discussed a range of policies that can and should be implemented at the provincial level especially with regards to changes happening in Alberta’s energy sector. Their conversations touched on the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals. In putting forth their policies, most of which were restorative in nature, students considered the ramifications, ranging from a national to an individual level.
School Earth Hour Challenge
The School Earth Hour Challenge is designed to encourage hands-on learning about how to save energy at school!
- First Place: Lisa Turbitt, Teacher at Chris Hadfield PS, Milton, Ontario.
The entire school participated and on the Friday before the official Earth Hour, they didn’t just switch off the lights for an hour, they did it all day. For this year, they collaborated with the Sustainability Coordinator at their board to measure impact and discovered that on a typical Friday (March 19th) they used 595.888 units of energy but this dropped on Friday, March 26th to 452.652 units making for a reduction of just under 24 per cent.
- Second Place: Jane Bach, Teacher at Eastwood Collegiate Institute, Kitchener, Ontario.
Students chose to create a two-part energy conservation plan for their school - one for in-person and another for online learning. And they are in the process of presenting the plan to other educators in preparation for making their school eco-friendly next year. The plan highlights long and short term goals, some of which were proposed to the school administration e.g. switching to energy efficient light bulbs etc. The plan also discusses how to address and encourage eco-friendly behaviour and attitudes.
- Third Place: Laura Myers, Teacher at Hampton High School, Hampton, New Brunswick.
Students learned about the mass of CO2 emitted per kWh of energy used in the school. They put this learning into action by creating reminders for their teachers to turn off the lights and power bars etc. when leaving their classrooms. One group conducted a survey that showed students prefer natural light and lamps rather than overhead fluorescent lights - this discovery helped students encourage their teachers to keep those lights off.
Home Energy Audit Challenge
The Home Energy Audit Challenge allows students to audit their home energy use and learn how to save energy at home!
- First Place TIE: Julia Lagman, Teacher at Toronto French School, West Campus, Mississauga, Ontario.
In the Home Energy Audit Challenge, the students from participating schools each did an audit of their home. While doing so, they found incandescent light bulbs, air leaks, lights and devices left unattended, old appliances, heavy flow showerheads etc. Here’s what Nina, a student, had to say, “The home energy audit challenge helped me understand how many watts most regular household items use. The amount of watts that are used usually depends on how long you use the device for. I was really surprised when I heard that an average vacuum cleaner uses around 1,400 watts and a cell phone only uses around 5 watts.”
- First Place TIE: Jenny Arseneau, Teacher at Toronto French School, Mississauga, Ontario.
As an entire class, they implemented various strategies and simple actions to ensure energy savings at home which included: turning off the lights when learning the room, turning off and unplugging devices that are not in use and learning about how to reduce “phantom load.’ Collectively, they discovered that they had way more light bulbs that they thought they actually did. Now, they understand more about different types of lightbulbs and which ones are better for the environment.
- Third Place: Raymond Leung, Teacher at York Region Elementary Virtual School 3, Markham, Ontario.
Students conducted an energy audit and involved members of their household to complete the challenge. They also took individual actions at home to reduce their electricity consumption. Some key learnings and actions that resulted from participating in this challenge include:
Using the microwave less,
Unplugging electronic devices when not in use,
Opening the windows instead of turning on the air-conditioner,
and much more!
Our Flood:Ed Challenge implores students to think about flood safety, and to create a flood resilience plan!
- First Place: Janna Barkman, Teacher at West St. Paul School, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Their students' flood resilience plan featured two phases. The first was to educate people about the history of the land and water so that they can awaken to their role in preserving the ecosystems and biodiversity of their wetlands, particularly soil health and water diversion. The second phase is still in progress and involves developing a series of eco-buffers on the western side of the school yard. Eco-buffers are a type of new shelter bed design that have a dense configuration of a range of Indigenous trees and shrubs.
- Second Place: Laura Myers, Teacher at Hampton High School, Hampton, New Brunswick.
While they did not develop a flood resilience plan, the students calculated the surface area of their school’s greenhouse and estimated how much water would be needed to nourish plants in the greenhouse assuming that it was full of plants. Then, they installed a water barrel in front of the greenhouse to collect water, which was used to water their pollinator garden via an automatic drip irrigation system attached. They are now also in the process of building a solar water pump in the school garden.
Eco 360 Challenge: The Eco 360 Challenge enables students to propose a feasible innovation plan that incorporates a circular economic model to eliminate plastic waste from our environment.
- First place: James Stuart, Teacher at Queen Elizabeth High School, Edmonton, Alberta.
Their plan involved creating a division wide 3D printing plastic collection and supply system. This would allow schools across Edmonton Public to collect their waste 3D printing plastic and supply it to Queen Elizabeth High School where it would be recycled using a cyclical process to produce house brand printing filament at a reduced cost. Overall, the project incorporated policy solutions, entrepreneurial thinking and public education.
We would like to thank all of the teachers and students who participated in our challenges during this school year. We enjoyed reviewing your impressive contributions, and we look forward to the next round of our GreenLearning challenges! To read more detailed project summaries and view photos from everyone who participated, please check out the submissions showcase.
If you are feeling inspired and would like to participate in a challenge with your class for the next school year, please click here and register!
Have a great summer!