Taylor Perez says she learned more about her passions while tending beehives, goats and fruit trees at her central Alberta high school than sitting through lessons in a classroom.
“These are all skills we don’t learn in regular classes,” says the 18-year-old student at Lacombe Composite High School.
“You’re not going to learn how to collaborate with community members by sitting in a classroom learning about E = mc2.”
Perez and her classmates are buzzing with excitement after their school’s student-led beekeeping program, goat farm, fruit orchard, tropical greenhouse and other environmental projects were recognized in a global sustainability contest among 10 other schools.
It’s the only North American school to be shortlisted by T4 Education, a global advocacy group, in its World’s Best School Prize for Environmental Action contest.
“The projects are coming from the students’ own hearts and passion for taking care of the environment,” says Steven Schultz, an agriculture and environmental science teacher who has been teaching in Lacombe since 1996.
“They are going to 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 pitched and designed by students in the school’s Ecovision Club, to which Perez 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 heard Schultz say during a lesson on renewable energy that “words were meaningless or worthless without action,” the 56-year-old teacher recalls.
“She took that to heart and a year later she came back and told me that she wanted to take the school off the grid.”
Schultz and students watched a fire burn down solar panels on the school’s roof in 2010, an event that further transformed his approach to teaching.
“As their school was burning, my students gathered in tears. That day I realized that students really care about the environment and they really care about the projects that they were involved in.”
Since then, 32 new solar panels have been installed, and they produce up to four per cent 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 teachers’ lounge.
More recently, students replaced an old portable classroom on school property with a greenhouse that operates solely with renewable energy. It’s growing tropical fruits, such as bananas, pineapples, and lemons, and also houses some tilapia fish.
Two acres of the school are also covered by a food forest made up of almost 200 fruit trees and 50 raised beds where organic food is grown.
The school also works with a local farm and raises baby goats inside a solar-powered barn that was built with recycled material.
“They breed and milk them at the farm because there are really tight regulations,” says Schultz.
“We take the excrement from the goats and the hay and use it as mulch and fertilizers for our garden. The goats also chew up the grass and allow us not to have to use lawn mowers and tractors”
Perez said her favourite class is the beekeeping program with 12 hives that produce more than 300 kilograms of honey every year.
“I love that they have different roles in their own little societies,” Perez says of the bees.
She says while working with local businesses and groups as a part of her curriculum, she learned she’s passionate about the environment and wants to become a pharmacist so she can continue giving back to her community.
James Finley, a formerly shy Grade 10 student, says the Ecovision Club and environment classes have helped get him out of his comfort zone.
“I made friends, which was a hard thing for me in the beginning. But now I have, like, hundreds,” says the 16-year-old, who enjoyed the lessons he took on harvesting.
“Taylor and Mr. Schultz were the main people that made me stay.”
Schultz says the winners of the contest are to be announced in the fall.
A prize of about $322,000 will be equally shared among five winners.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sunday, July 3, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
Premier Jason Kenney kicks off campaign to attract skilled workers to Alberta
CALGARY — Premier Jason Kenney kicked off a campaign to lure skilled workers from Toronto and Vancouver as he doubled down on his criticism of a so-called Alberta sovereignty act pitched by one of the candidates running to replace him.
Kenney held a news conference Monday to announce the United Conservative government’s plans to start recruiting workers to Alberta as the provincial economy grows.
“Alberta is back in a big way, but one of the biggest challenges to sustaining that amazing growth is having enough people who are filling the jobs that are being created,” he said.
“As far as problems go, that’s a pretty good one to have.”
The campaign comes after Kenney called a key platform promise of one of the candidates to succeed him as leader and premier “nuts.”
Candidate Danielle Smith has said if she wins the leadership, she would bring a bill this fall to give Alberta the power to ignore federal laws and court rulings deemed not in the province’s interest.
Legal scholars say such a bill would be illegal, unenforceable and a dangerous dismissal of respect for the rule of law.
Kenney said he’s certain that even if the legislature passed the law, the lieutenant-governor would refuse to give it royal assent and Alberta would become a “laughingstock.”
Smith chastised Kenney in a statement Sunday for “interference” in the leadership contest, saying his comments were “ill-informed and disrespectful to a large and growing majority of UCP members that support this important initiative.”
“If elected to replace him as leader and premier, I will work closely and collaboratively with our entire UCP Caucus to ensure the Sovereignty Act is drafted, passed and implemented in accordance with sound constitutional language and principles,” Smith said in her statement.
Kenney said Monday that he’s not interfering in the leadership campaign, but restating his position on an important public policy issue.
“This government was elected on a commitment to create jobs, grow the economy and get pipelines built,” he said. “This so-called sovereignty act would be a body blow to all three of those things.
“It would massively drive away investment, it would cause people to leave the province, businesses not to come here just when our economy is experiencing fantastic economic investment.”
Kenney said it could also hurt the campaign to attract people to the province.
“Here we are launching a campaign for Canadians to move to another part of Canada,” he said. “If Alberta were to decide effectively to launch a separatist project, I think that would automatically exclude a lot of Canadians.
“To the contrary, instead of being able to attract people, we would start hemorrhaging people.”
He said that’s not theoretical because of what happened in Quebec in 1976 when René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois were elected on a separatist platform.
“Quebec overnight began to hemorrhage people, money and investment,” Kenney said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2022.
Colette Derworiz and Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
WEF? Capital NO: Danielle Smith replies to claims she endorses Justin Trudeau’s green agenda
Submitted by Danielle Smith
Say No to the WEF and Trudeau Agenda!
In politics, negative attacks are still an unfortunate part of the process. I usually just tune them out.
However, I did have to do a bit of a double take on the latest attack by my friends, Travis Toews and Brian Jean, who accused me of endorsing…wait for it…Justin Trudeau’s radical green agenda.
Now, that’s a new one I haven’t heard before! Until yesterday I was accused of being too tough on Ottawa…what changed gentlemen?
Danielle Smith and 300 friends in Grande Prairie, Alberta. August 6th.
Obviously, their accusation is absurd on many levels, but I thought this might be a good opportunity to share my thoughts with you on the dangers of Justin Trudeau’s WEF-inspired radical climate agenda, and why we need to tackle environmental issues in a much different way – the Alberta way.
First off, the WEF is an anti-democratic group of woke elites that advocate for dangerous socialist policies that cause high inflation, food shortages and a lack of affordable energy, which in turn, leads to mass poverty, especially in the developing world.
There is no question what their agenda is – they want to shut down our energy and agriculture industries as fast as they can.
We need to join with allies, like Scott Moe in Saskatchewan, and stand up for our farmers and our provincial rights.
Justin Trudeau has openly adopted the WEF agenda and has instituted a wealth of policies meant to drive up the cost of energy and food production so he can meet arbitrary and aggressive WEF CO2 emissions targets.
Let me be perfectly clear – As Premier, no individual in my government or provincial agency will be permitted to associate with the WEF in any manner.
Secondly, WEF inspired policies imposed upon us by Ottawa will not be enforced by any Provincial agency under authority of the Alberta Sovereignty Act.
The fact is the Federal carbon tax, the recent announcement of a 30% reduction in fertilizer use by farmers, and the proposed arbitrary emissions cap on our energy sector are scams that do nothing to improve the environment.
You don’t improve the environment or reduce emissions by destroying livelihoods and causing food shortages.
We can, however, lower emissions and pollutants the right way, the Alberta way – through Alberta technology and exporting our clean Alberta energy to the world.
Our largest oilsands producers have proposed a pioneering project, called Pathways, to use carbon tech and small modular nuclear to dramatically reduce all types of emissions from oilsands production.
Further, we must get Alberta LNG and our other clean energy products to Asia, Europe and the US to replace reliance on higher polluting fuels such as coal, wood and dung.
Our forestry, ranching and farming sectors are also proud to provide nature based solutions to offset emissions, and they deserve recognition and credit for providing this service to the world.
These initiatives – advancing Alberta technology and exporting our clean energy to the world – will do more for the environment than all of the harmful virtue signaling policies of the WEF and Justin Trudeau combined – and will do so while creating jobs and wealth, rather than unemployment and poverty.
I invite my friends, Travis Toews and Brian Jean, to stop the silly attacks and join with me in fighting Justin Trudeau, Rachel Notley and their WEF Agenda together!
– Danielle Smith
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