Wednesday 5 October 2016

Why Should We Care for Planet Earth?

Student Action for a Sustainable Future 2015-16 - Grade 8 Inquiry Unit, St. George School

Student Action for a Sustainable Future involves students in Grades 5 to 8 in projects that reduce classroom, school, and household greenhouse gas emissions. A year-end showcase provides students with an opportunity to highlight the results of their projects and to demonstrate what’s possible in terms of sustainable action. The program is sponsored by the City of Saskatoon, Saskatoon Public Schools, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, SERI, and several other community partners.

The Grade 8 students at St. George School took on 7 different projects as part of the 2015-2016 program. EcoFriendly Sask supported their efforts with a $500 EcoFriendly Action Grant.

The deadline for teachers to apply for the 2016-2017 program is October 7, 2016.

Students developed projects that would (1) reduce greenhouse gases and (2) bring about change in their target group. Their teacher, Ryan McAllister, reported on their results.

Lights Out Campaign in School 
The group calculated energy and greenhouse gases that could be saved/reduced by turning off approximately half the light bulbs in each classroom for the period of a day. They then extrapolated their results across a week, month, and year.

Their calculations indicated that they saved 82,000,000 watts in a month ≈ $105 ≈ 900kg greenhouse gases.

Water Bottles for Every Student
The group calculated water saved by giving each student in the school a water bottle and encouraged the school to only use those water bottles rather than drinking out of water fountains. They performed this project for a week then were able to extrapolate the results to cover a longer time frame.

By reading the water meter before and during their action plans, they got their results. Saved ≈ 21,000 liters of water over a week (“results may be skewed on this one”)

Eliminating Plastic Bags in the School
The group placed containers in each classroom to gather all the plastic bags used in student lunches so they could be recycled. They educated the school about not using so many or any bags at all and also provided alternative options. They calculated bags saved and reduced.

Pre-audit found 90 bags in garbage in one day. Post audit, there were only 35 bags in the garbage, 40 in the recycle bin, and a total of 15 less bags used in a day. (“a lot more potential success with this program”)

Composting at School
This group brought someone in to speak about vermi-composting who gave a “how-to” lesson on setting up and taking care of their own vermi-composting bin. The students also promoted composting food scraps rather than throwing them out. They calculated the amount of compostable food before and then after getting the compost bins.

Pre-audit found 32 lbs of garbage in school in one day. Of that, 14 lbs was compostable waste. The students were unable to set up functional compost bins in every class but did so in their own class and basically eliminated all their class’s compostable waste (≈ 2-5 lbs/week).

Water Usage at Home 
The group surveyed water usage in the homes of all the school’s students and asked the students in their class to change their water behaviour for one week (e.g. shower and bath lengths and times a week, washer usage, and sink tap usage).

They found that ≈ 400,000 liters of water were used in a week in grades 5-8. Their class was able to save ≈ ¼ of that in their action plan week.

Native & Endangered Plant Awareness 
This group focused their attention on raising awareness due to the limits on what could be planted in their school yard. They handed out several surveys and talked to classes to educate them. The group learnt how difficult is to create and make change on this issue. They discovered how much of the city has empty parks full of grass and about all the hoops that need to be jumped through to do something as simple as planting a few plants. As a result, the group purchased grow lights and garden boxes.

No More Idling 
The group carried out audits over four weeks while educating their fellow students. In week 1 pre-audit, 18,060 ml of gas was wasted. By week 2, the amount had decreased to approximately one third (6,360 ml) and it was down to 3,060 ml by week 4.

Benefits of an Action Grant
“From a personal standpoint what I noticed from my class in comparison to the other groups at the Showcase and in general is that my students took their projects very seriously and did amazing work,” says teacher Ryan McAllister.

“They did not simply research and theorize but rather went into the school and community of St. George to test and solve their hypotheses. They performed pre-audits and surveys, put into action their plans, and did post-audits, all of which made their projects very rewarding and successful.

“A lot of groups had ideas and made posters, but our school really went into great detail and each student brought so much to their projects. This would not have been possible without the extra funding to help them put together the necessary action plans. Without the funding, the groups would not have been able to weigh their garbage and composted material, gather compost and plastic bags, and bring awareness to all the great ideas.”

See also: Student Action for a Sustainable Future 2014-2015