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13 Aug, Saturday
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Montreal Families

John Rennie’s eco-friendly initiatives pay off

Almost every day, there is a news report about global warming and the poor state of our planet. Images of melting Arctic glaciers and rapidly decreasing species of flora and fauna leave many of us wondering what we can do to help.

Staples Canada (Bureau en Gros) runs an annual contest to encourage young people to come up with their own eco-friendly initiatives. The Super Power your School contest is open to public elementary and secondary schools across Canada in the hopes that the younger population will lead the way in ensuring a cleaner, healthier future for generations to come. The contest is held in collaboration with Earth Day Canada and recognizes schools that have made substantial efforts to improve environmental conditions in their communities.

Last year, Pointe Claire’s John Rennie High School was one of 10 schools chosen to receive $25,000 because of its initiatives.

Initially, the students focused on developing a school-wide recycling program but then went on to implement a composting program that expanded naturally into reviving a neglected garden on school property that had been planted back in 1955. Along with the lush, green space and vegetable patch, the garden is now home to a restored fishpond that once again has aquatic life.

According to April Rehel, one of the teachers involved, the garden really began to flourish after the school implemented its maintenance into the curriculum. In their geography class, students learn about the agricultural process behind maintaining a healthy garden and planting vegetable seeds. Once they are ready for harvesting, the students enrolled in cooking classes use the vegetables as part of their dishes. Those taking biology classes lend a hand and test the water’s pH and nitrate levels to ensure that fish can survive in its water.

“This project provides an opportunity to learn about ecologically sustainable practices within our school community,” said J.F Pepin, another teacher involved in last year’s competition.

And the school is not resting on its laurels. Recently, it has introduced beehives to teach students about the vital role bees play in our ecosystems, and to develop more local and sustainable agricultural practices by harvesting their own honey. The school’s beekeeper, Mickael Mage from the Miel Montreal Cooperative, has been teaching students the fundamentals of beehive dynamics and how to properly maintain them in the garden.

The students have also been fostering positive relationships with the Pointe Claire Horticultural Society whose members are “always eager to help pass on their knowledge and expertise to the staff and students,” said Pepin.

The money was used to buy new equipment for the computer lab and the staff has incorporated new forms of technology into their teaching methods. The school also purchased solar panels to use as an alternative energy source to power their devices. With this new equipment, they have installed cameras around the beehives to monitor the colony’s activity, which will allow students to observe and better understand the complexities of this fragile ecosystem.

The students also mentor elementary students by helping them develop and reach their eco-friendly goals. For example, students from École Primaire Pointe Claire took part in composting workshops, and have baked kale chips with the help of Secondary 5 students, using the vegetables they grew in their own garden.

As part of an upcoming Earth Day celebration, students will be visiting LaSalle elementary school Children’s World Academy to discuss their experiences and hopefully inspire them to take on ecological challenges of their own.

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