Calgary school named 'greenest' in Canada
Lord Shaughnessy High School takes top prize in Canada, now eyeing world championship
Bandile Phiri is a Grade 12 student at Lord Shaughnessy High School who is really enjoying the energy and environmental innovation program.
"The classes here compared to other schools are very flexible, very relaxed. Sometimes we work outside, sometimes we work inside, sometimes we go off campus," Phiri told CBC News.
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"Even just the classrooms are very different from other classrooms because it's not just desks that you sit at just listening to the teacher. You are always doing hands-on work a lot of the time. You are surrounded by plants and running water and it's really calming when you come into the classroom."
Phiri isn't alone in giving the school top marks.
Lord Shaughnessy was recently named Greenest School in Canada 2016 by the Canada Green Building Council.
Phiri says the program, school and faculty have really made her think.
"I had a very vague understanding of what it meant to be more environmentally friendly and what I can do personally to help better the natural environment," she said.
"I didn't realize how awesome this school was and how unique this program was. But now that I think about it, it is very unique, the things that we get to do, the trips that we get to take are very different from what other courses do."
Fellow student Colin Charlton says he wants to be a change catalyst.
"Changing people's minds is what I want to do. I want to make more people want to get Teslas," Charlton said of the electric car maker.
"That is what my goal is, I just want to inspire people to be more aware of the environment and how they affect it with their decisions."
The Grade 12 student says he's not sure focusing on climate change deniers is an efficient use of time, instead, he'd rather work with young people to get the message out.
"The change that we need to have … it has to almost start at a much younger age. That is before people have ingrained ideas," he said.
Adam Robb, a teacher in the program, says the contest money will go to good use.
"It is an amazing title. With that comes prize money of $2,000 to spend on future student projects which is great because we can always use the money," Robb said.
"This is money we will easily use."
The school took second place last year and Robb says the change this year is one of focus.
"I think the biggest difference is … more of a focus on First Nations education, more of a focus on making better environments for our First Nations students to come and learn and feel comfortable in. It is a no-brainer that a more natural space with our First Nation students is a more successful space," Robb explained.
"We've had First Nation students build and grow a sacred sage garden which is just this beautiful little place where they go to have a spiritual place. It's being blessed by elders next Friday, so it's really validating student work."
For student Phiri, it's about taking one step at a time.
"Don't be afraid to start small. You don't have to start with a big, huge project like installing solar panels on your house," the TedXCalgary speaker said.
"Even just doing simple things like changing your diet so that you don't eat a whole lot of meat products that come from factory farms or taking more bike rides rather than cars, or carpooling or just making all of your friends more aware about what is going on with the environment."
Charlton, meanwhile, is calling on the provincial government to put words into action.
"I would challenge the education and environment ministers and maybe even the premier to follow other province's leads when it comes to things around innovation and moving the province forward towards a greener province," he said.
"I have heard that B.C. has taken a part of their carbon tax and they let the schools reinvest it into becoming greener. I challenge our province to follow their lead and to help schools to get more solar panels and to get more initiatives like this, more funding for programs like this."
Lord Shaughnessy's next step is the world's greenest school competition which gets underway in coming months.
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With files from Evelyne Asselin