Before we sign off for this year’s Challenge, we wanted to share with you some amazing work that was done during this year’s Challenge and which we hope will inspire you, including this video

Claudette Philips is a teacher at Nepean High School in Ottawa, Ont., who participated in this year’s Classroom Energy Diet Challenge alongside her colleague Melissa McCoy. Philips took some time out of her busy schedule to talk with Can Geo Education about how her class took on the Challenge and what kind of impact it had on the students and community.

On water use and plastic pollution

We really focused on our use of resources. We looked at the Great Lakes and talked about plastics and our use of water and our eco-footprint. And of course, the Take Home challenge tied in really well with that. I had them really thinking about how much water they use in their showers at home and what that meant to them. And they made a personal goal to reduce the amount of water that they use and tweeted that message out, and used Snapchat to talk about it on social media.

For our plastics challenge, we brought in a guest speaker, Laurie Wilson, from the Blue Ocean Network, and she spoke about the impacts that plastics are having, the pollution of our water systems and how that moves through our water ways and watersheds, which is a big focus with our Grade 9 geography. And we talked about the pollution that we have locally that gets into our river system and then washes into the ocean ultimately and what impact that has. She encouraged students in ways that they could make a difference personally—how they could reach out to companies and governments, or that idea of not taking plastic bags anymore.

On the versatility and relevance of the Challenge for schools and communities

We had a large assembly with different classes from different grades and it included our outdoor education class, world issues class, science class, and civics class, because of the idea about citizenship and that global responsibility. And the science teachers felt it tied in really well with their curriculum. Also, it was around that time that the environmental marches were happening and my Grade 12s felt really empowered by that as well, that they really want to take a stand on issues with the environment.

I think that this kind of project ties into virtually any curriculum and I think it offers teachers the opportunity to jump in from a wide variety of courses—outdoor education, science, geography, math—to get involved and engage students in real-life activities. Encouraging parents to participate in the Citizenship Challenge was great, and one of the parents in my class, Philippa Jones, was a winner of the Citizenship challenge. It was an interesting way to integrate and educate families, through the students to the parents. It takes it beyond the classroom and takes it into the community.

 

On what the students took away from the experience

From the assembly, the kids really came away from it being more aware about things, like the other day we were talking about buying things second-hand. In my class, we talked about those zero-waste grocery stores and what does it mean to have a litter-less lunch, and what does it mean when you bring home packaging, not only from the grocery store but also clothing stores and the like. How do you reduce that plastic waste? We had a long conversation about driving versus riding your bike and the length of a shower and water used. The big picture for them is recognizing how big their eco-footprint is.

Looking for a way to keep the conversation about water and plastics going? This year’s theme for World Ocean’s Day, which is June 8th, is focused on preventing plastic pollution. Check out some of these resources to get you started: https://www.worldoceansday.org/youth

 

Here are a few ideas for what you can do to conserve and protect our oceans and waterways:

1.     Reduce your water footprint—by taking shorter showers, using water in a sustainable way in the garden, shopping locally for groceries, etc. Learn more: https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/45-ways-to-conserve-water-in-the-home-and-yard/ and https://en.reset.org/act/save-water-reduce-your-water-footprint

2.     Summer is coming up and that means time on the beach or out on the lake, so be conscious not to leave behind any garbage after you leave a natural space. Even better, consider doing a beach or park clean up with your friends, school, or community! Get inspired: https://www.shorelinecleanup.ca/ and https://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/oceans/oceansday-journeedesoceans/infographic-eng.html

3.     Educate yourself about the many different ways that human activities, from tourism to agriculture, can have an effect on our waterways. For more ideas, read: “Celebrate World Oceans Day—10 Things You Can Do1” on Blue Ocean Network’s blog: https://blueocean.net/celebrate-world-oceans-day-10-things-can/