Alberta High School Shortlisted in Global Environmental Competition |

Taylor Perez says she learned more about her passions while tending beehives, goats and fruit trees at her middle school in central Alberta than she did sitting through lessons in a classroom.

“These are all skills that we don’t learn in regular classes,” says the 18-year-old student from Lacombe Composite High School, about 80 miles south of Edmonton.

“You’re not going to learn how to collaborate with community members by sitting in a classroom.

Perez and her classmates are excited after their school’s student-led beekeeping program, goat farm, fruit orchard, tropical greenhouse and other environmental projects were recognized in a global sustainability competition among 10 other projects. schools.

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It is the only school in North America to have been shortlisted by T4 Education, a global advocacy group, in its World’s Best School Prize for Environmental Action competition.

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“The projects come from the hearts and passion of students to care for the environment,” says Steven Schultz, a professor of agriculture and environmental sciences who has taught at Lacombe since 1996.

“It will be our community leaders, maybe even our politicians, and for them to know what the heartbeat of their generation is (is) extremely important.”

Schultz says the projects are submitted and designed by students at the school’s Ecovision Club, to which Pérez belongs, and he then bases a curriculum around those ideas.

The school of about 900 students began reducing its environmental footprint in 2006 when a former student overheard Schultz say during a lesson on renewable energy that “words are meaningless or worthless without action,” the 56-year-old teacher recalls.

“He took it seriously and a year later he came back and told me he wanted to take the school off the grid.”

Schultz and the students watched a fire burn through the solar panels on the school’s roof in 2010, an event that further transformed their approach to teaching.

“While their school was burning, my students cried. That day I realized that the students really care about the environment and they really care about the projects they are involved in.”

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Since then, 32 new solar panels have been installed, producing up to four percent of the school’s electricity. After the fire, students also wanted to clean the air in their classrooms, so they filled some with spider plants, including one in the staff room.

Most recently, students replaced an old portable classroom on school property with a greenhouse that runs solely on renewable energy. It is growing tropical fruits, such as bananas, pineapples, and lemons, and is also home to some tilapia fish.

Two acres of the school are also covered in a food forest comprised of nearly 200 fruit trees and 50 raised beds where organic food is grown.

The school also works with a local farm and raises kids inside a solar-powered barn that was built from recycled material.

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“They are raised and milked on the farm because there are very strict regulations,” says Schultz.

“We take the goat droppings and hay and use it as mulch and fertilizer for our garden. The goats also chew the grass and they allow us to avoid having to use lawnmowers and tractors”

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Pérez said that his favorite class is the beekeeping program with 12 hives that produce more than 300 kilograms of honey each year.

“I love that they have different roles in their own little societies,” Pérez says of the bees.

She says that while working with local businesses and groups as part of her curriculum, she learned that she is passionate about the environment and wants to become a pharmacist so she can continue giving back to her community.

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James Finley, a shy former 10th grader, says the Ecovision Club and environmental classes have helped him get out of his comfort zone.

“I made friends, which was difficult for me at first. But now I have, like, hundreds,” says the 16-year-old, who enjoyed the lessons he learned about harvesting.

“Taylor and Mr. Schultz were the main people that made me stay.”

Schultz says the contest winners will be announced in the fall.

A prize of around $322,000 will be shared equally among five winners.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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