Team dreams up a green future

By on April 5, 2018
Students at Nicola Canford Elementary joined forces to create the "Dream Team." Photo contributed.

 

by Dara Hill

Grade Five and Six students from Nicola Canford Elementary are exploring environmental issues in the annual B.C. Green Games competition.

The competition is designed to provide inquiry-based environmental education in B.C. schools, and features a variety of prizes and an optional field trip to science world.

Aaron Cleaveley is the teacher behind Nicola Canford Elementary’s division 2 class of 28 students: the “Nicola Canford Dream Team.” He’s participated in the competition twice before, noting that he likes to “throw it out there” to his classes to see if students are interested.

“Once we get a sense that kids are interested in some topics that are related to environment then we form groups based on their interests,” he said.

Cleaveley explained that this aligns with one aspect of B.C.’s new curriculum — student-led, inquiry-based education.

“I don’t decide what the topics are, and I don’t decide which students are doing which topics. That has to be student-driven,” he said. “If the class isn’t interested in pursuing a few different topics, then I don’t do it.”

Once the groups have been formed, Cleaveley’s students pursue their topics once per week. They research them and try to figure out how to make their community better with that information.

This year, his students formed groups based on their interests in composting, energy, biosolids, garbage and electronics.

“It’s an environmental action competition, so you’re supposed to do something with that information, which is the hard part sometimes for kids,” said Cleaveley.

Action components this year included making better soil for the school garden through red wiggler worm composting by the composting group, and a building a spot welder from a microwave by the electronics group.

Some students are more interested in sharing their findings with their peers, through initiatives such as classroom presentations and posters, Cleaveley said.

“For example, the garbage group — they’ve learned about some of the ways that garbage harms the environment or animals and they want to pass that along to kids in younger grades,” he said.

The dream team has been awarded second place in the viewer’s choice award category, thanks to the 60,968 votes from the Nicola Valley community. The achievement earned them a $500 cash prize, along with the other top five teams — all from the Lower Mainland.

“For a town our size — that’s quite something,” Cleaveley said. “We were over the moon with that total. We were so wowed by the response of the community and it was just really neat the way people supported us all month with the voting,” said Cleaveley.

He explained there were many individuals working to support the cause — getting other people to vote, organizing a contest on the Merritt Grapevine Facebook group, and drawing for prizes every night.

“A few people really liked it and embraced it. They just kind of decided they were going to help us out and be the champion for our cause,” he said.

“It’s all organic — I have nothing to do with it.”

“I’m hoping that because we have an overwhelming amount of community support that helps carry us to a judged prize,” said Cleaveley.

Regardless of the outcome, the kids have dared to dream big and have learned a lot.

“I think they’ve really enjoyed that they can compete with other schools across the province and do really well. They’re sort of flattered that these people they don’t really know from all over the Nicola Valley are supporting them — that’s kind of neat to see that people in your community care about what you’re doing and will support you,” said Cleaveley.

The contest is officially over, but the work doesn’t stop for these students.

“We’re going to try to keep to the schedule of doing something once a week with this and just carrying on with the projects,” said Cleaveley.

Cleaveley said the groups may shift focus, perhaps digging into the school’s garden, but the learning will continue.

He said he’s grateful for all the support the class has received from the community.

“A thank you for all the people who supported us through voting, getting their friends or family to vote, we really appreciate that — we certainly couldn’t have done as well as we did in the viewer’s choice competition without that.”

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