Robert Thirsk High School has brought its foods program to life thanks to a student with a passion for stewardship, a hands-on natural sciences program and an application to Alberta Environment and Parks Climate and Environment Student Action Challenge.
Kyra Mather wanted to reduce her environmental footprint and came up with an idea – if the cafeteria at her school served meat on one fewer occasion each week, it would be equivalent to taking three cars off the road.
Through research, she learned more about the relationship between food production and greenhouse gas emissions. This connection inspired her to first propose a once-a-month meatless Monday for her school and to look for other opportunities for both her and her classmates to encourage sustainability and prove that small acts can have a big impact.
Kyra’s class applied for a grant to build a tower garden through a new initiative hosted by Alberta Environment and Parks; the Student Action Challenge. As a part of this new provincial program, students were invited to develop school-based initiatives or projects to address climate change or minimize other negative human impacts to the environment. Student groups had a chance to win one of 10 grants valued up to $1,000 to turn their proposal into a reality.
Kyra and her group’s proposal, titled Climate Literacy through Meatless Mondays, was to grow some of their school cafeteria’s menu items in-house on a living wall, reducing the “food miles” of their school, or the amount of greenhouse gas emitted through food transportation.
Warren Lake, who teaches natural science courses at the school, agrees this student-led initiative has added value to the classroom, “This project is really part of an introduction to stewardship and it’s also a project in which they learn about living within the environment. This isn’t just a one-shot project, there’s a legacy value.”
The students at Robert Thirsk also think the project has been a shining success.
“We just want people educated on their own choices – about how what they eat has an impact on a global scale,” says Grey Coburn, a Grade 11 student involved in the project. “If we grow our own food, that saves the school a lot of money and that means funding can be used elsewhere on education. It’s just a better thing in the long run.”
A list of all this year’s successfully funded projects can be found at: https://talkaep.alberta.ca/climate-and-environment-student-action-challenge