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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Monarch Park Collegiate and surrounding community, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Monarch Park Collegiate and surrounding community, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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soph96



Registered: December 2013
Posts: 1
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Sometimes the abundance of environmental issues we are facing today can be overwhelming. Sometimes it seems like no matter how hard we try to mend our little green and blue ball in space, there is always a larger presence that prioritizes economic growth rather than respecting our beautiful rivers and mountains, our forests and oceans. However, the world is a dynamic place, and I believe it is changing for the better. My Apprentice Ecologist Project of starting and leading my school’s environment club for three years, on behalf of the Nicodemus Wilderness Project has taught me that individual acts, carried out by many, do make a difference. There is only so much one person can do to help the environment, but change needs to start somewhere, and like a drop of water in a pond, the ripples will radiate outward. I am proud to say that I was that drop of water in the pond of my high school – Monarch Park Collegiate in Toronto, Canada. In Grade nine, I was surprised to learn that my school did not have an environment club. The environment club should be the most important one in the school, I thought back then. I believe that we are all responsible for the wellbeing of the place we call home, and that this responsibility should not feel like a burden, but instead simply the right thing to do.


That year for Earth Week, a friend and I made posters (out of recycled paper) and created announcements that shared environmental facts. We also set up a display and raffle in the school’s front foyer. I was proud of our efforts, but soon realized that much more needed to be done. In Grade 10, my friend and I gathered a group of people and reinvigorated the environment club. Since then, our aim has been to develop and deliver creative and informative events that educate and engage people about various local and global environmental issues.


Although my Apprentice Ecologist project has taken place over three years, the work I did as an executive member of my school’s environment club in 2013 was the most challenging and rewarding. This year, the environment club has been an active presence in my school and the larger community. The school year started off with 20 of us participating in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup by picking up garbage from Taylor Creek. This is an annual event for the club, and we usually end up filling five large garbage bags with mostly plastic and styrofoam from the creek. We received positive feedback from park users who were pleasantly surprised by a group of teenagers in rubber boots and gloves, taking care of the environment and having fun at the same time! Our stewardship of Taylor Creek helps to retain its ecological integrity, which is difficult due to its location in an urban setting where litter often gets swept into waterways and compromises the wildlife that calls this creek and waterway home.


In honour of International Water Day 2013, I led my environment club in a unique plastic water bottle initiative. Plastic water bottles present many problems for the environment: their production requires enormous amounts of water and oil; then they are used once or twice and thrown away. My club met several times to organize our event – to create a monster out of plastic water bottles and introduce it to students and teachers at lunch time. We planned to share facts about the environmental impacts of plastic water bottles and collect pledges from students and teachers to reduce their use of disposable water bottles. During lunch hours, we built the monster out of water bottles found in the school’s recycling and garbage bins. On the day chosen to present the water bottle monster, we talked with many students about the issues with using plastic bottles. While some were reluctant to listen, most received our presentation very well and, overall, our International Water Day was a success. Everyone loved the monster, and we learned that the strength of our initiative was its creative nature. Although no quantitative data measuring the reduction of plastic water bottle use in our school was collected, I noticed far fewer people using them following our event!


In April, the environment club planned and held a waste audit for our Earth Week activity. I brought this idea forward to the rest of the club because I had done a waste audit in my past school and it was successful. A waste audit entails the sorting of the school's garbage into recycling, food waste, and actual garbage to see how much of each type makes up the total amount of garbage. From our audit of the hallway garbage bins after one day of accumulation, we found that around one half of the "garbage" was actually recycling. Environment club members then visited classrooms to present the audit results to students and teachers, which allowed us to educate people on a more intimate level than a school-wide event would have. The presentations effectively engaged people in an important issue, thus empowering them with information to encourage them to recycle properly. The students’ interest and understanding I noticed during our presentations was gratifying and affirming that our club was capable of making a difference. After the presentations were done, we maintained the momentum of the recycling message by designing a display for the first floor hallway with waste audit pictures, facts and results. This display enabled people who had not seen the presentation to learn about the audit and the importance of proper waste stream diversion. Through this waste audit, we educated ourselves and others about the waste produced by our school with the hope of shrinking our environmental footprint, which is one of the main goals of the club.


Apart from the larger events I organized with my school’s environment club, we held smaller events such as up-cycling, which is when you take objects destined to be thrown away and make them into something useful. We invited the school to make juice carton wallets, pop-tab bracelets, and origami creations out of used paper. Our up-cycling events were a continuation of our waste audit, in that the items used diverted materials away from landfill. Another initiative I helped introduce to my school was the decoration and distribution of scrap paper bins, called GOOS (Good On One Side) bins, to classrooms. This initiative reduces the school’s paper usage by encouraging people to reuse paper for things like working out math problems. GOOS bins are also being placed in photocopier rooms so that teachers can print one-sided documents such as quizzes on reused paper.


One final environment club activity that I believe to be extremely important is our regular hikes. As a club, we go on many hikes throughout the year. Hikes are enjoyable and give us a chance to reunite with nature, which can be hard to do in a city. We have explored the Don Valley Brickworks, the Leslie Spit, and various other conservation areas. It is important to get outside and experience nature because we need to be connected to the things that we are protecting. Group hikes provide great bonding opportunities for the club and they motivate us to continue our environmental activism within our school and community.


As a student leader and current President of Monarch Park’s environment club, I have invested a significant amount of time and thought into organizing events on behalf of the Nicodemus Wilderness Project. These events - the shoreline cleanup, the water bottle monster, the waste audit, up-cycling, and GOOS bins - were successful because they were interesting, well thought out, and bold within this school context. My project has given me confidence in my leadership abilities, and has inspired me to search for active roles in environmental stewardship at university next year. My goal as the leader of the environment club for the remainder of Grade 12 is to continue to bring environmentalism to other students and teachers with the hope that they will then carry it forth into their lives. My Apprentice Ecologist Project has planted the seed of sustainability in my school that will hopefully continue to grow and bloom after I leave for university next year. It has also taught me to never doubt the ability of a dedicated group of people to make a difference.
Date: December 23, 2013 Views: 4885 File size: 20.0kb, 73.9kb : 720 x 537
Hours Volunteered: 150
Volunteers: 15
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 14 to 17
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