Kitchener-Waterloo

Grade 5 teacher Cathy Dykstra of Guelph wins energy educator award

Cathy Dykstra is a Grade 5 teacher at Kortright Hills Public School in Guelph. She's been named the energy educator of the year by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

'They’ve got some great ideas that we need to help them thrive with,' Dykstra says of students

Cathy Dykstra, a Grade 5 teacher at Kortright Hills Public School in Guelph, is seen here with some of her students. Dykstra has been named the energy educator of the year award after her students took part in the Classroom Energy Diet Challenge, a national energy literacy program by Canadian Geographic Education and Shell Canada. (Upper Grand District School Board)

This year, Cathy Dykstra's Grade 5 class at Kortright Hills Public School in Guelph took on 16 energy-related challenges both in the classroom and at home, including going an hour without power and looking at ways their families could use less water.

Those efforts have earned Dykstra the energy educator of the year award from The Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

The society said she received the award for her "commitment to equipping Canada's next generation of consumers with the necessary energy conservation knowledge and skills."

Andrea Buchholz, education program co-ordinator at Canadian Geographic Education, told Dykstra it was a very competitive year with some strong candidates in the running for the award.

"What you are doing in your school community blew away the judges," she wrote in an email to Dykstra.

The class tackled the 16 challenges that were part of the Classroom Energy Diet Challenge, a national energy literacy program by Canadian Geographic Education and Shell Canada, over a three month period.

Students 'want to make a difference'

Dykstra, who is also part of the Water Rockers at the public school, said her students had a blast completing the challenges and anyone who thinks Grade 5 students aren't old enough to understand the impacts of climate change or their impact on the environment "are absolutely and completely wrong."

"I would invite them to come into any Grade 5 or 6 classroom and have a look at the things that the kids are able to truly understand and want to make a difference with and have great innovative ideas about already at that age," she said.

Dykstra says she'll be doing the challenges again next year. She tries to teach all of her subjects through environmental and social justice issues, so each year she tries to find contests like this one to add an extra layer of excitement for her students.

But, she says it's not too hard to engage students in their learning.

"The kids want a sense of purpose and they desperately want to feel like they matter and that they're important, not just in their school but also in their community," she said.

"They've got some great ideas that we need to help them thrive with."

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