Mt. Sentinel teacher Danny Leeming assists Terra-Mae Box and Asraia Mayer during the school's day-long sustainability event on Tuesday.

Kootenay Lake superintendent: ’The future of education is here’

Superintendent Jeff Jones praised the work done by Mt. Sentinel and the community in hosting ground-breaking sustainability day.

Kootenay Lake Superintendent Jeff Jones attended a ground-breaking environmental sustainability day at Mount Sentinel Secondary in South Slocan Tuesday—an ambitious, multi-faceted community collaboration that involved local mentors, environmentalists and the school’s neighbour Mount Sentinel Farms—and he believes it’s a great example of the direction contemporary education is heading in the Kootenays.

“We’re challenging traditional paradigms by engaging students in deep inquiry into topics that really matter to them, and we’re helping them be thoughtful about how they’ll contribute and become leaders in the global community,” he told the Star, during a break from the festivities. “We’ve taken our students right out of the traditional timetable and gotten them outside their classroom walls.”

Principal Glen Campbell said one of the primary purposes of the day was to engage the community. “We’re trying to make learning relevant, and we’re connecting to the kids’ own families and friends. We’re trying to show them that learning isn’t just happening between the pages of a book.”

He said they’re asking students to consider the implications of climate change on their lives. “We’re asking them questions that relate specifically to their lives, and we’re trying to be realistic about what they can currently do. If you’re trying to change something, where do you begin? We tell them ‘Let’s break it down to baby steps’.”

Mount Sentinel principal: ‘It starts with your voice’

The morning began with a raucous gymnasium rally that included speeches from local environmentalists such as Montana Burgess, who encouraged the kids to educate themselves on environmental issues and prepare themselves to vote for the future they want. Campbell said the energy in the room was “electric”.

“Montana, being younger and close to the students’ age, I think she really connected with the kids. She got them revved up and chanting. She’s an example to them, and she’s showing the kids they can make change happen. It starts with your voice, and being visible, and saying ‘look at us, look at our message’.”

That message: “We’re concerned about climate change.”

Students then broke into groups, attending workshops and conversation cafes with topics such as water stewardship, waste management, sustainable food production and the local wolf cull. The latter was led by Toni Appleby.

“We have some caribou antlers and some caribou hide here, plus a mountain lion hide and a wolf hide. They’re here for the kids to see and feel and touch, and to bring the presence of these animals into the room.”

Appleby said the tactile experience of actually touching the pelts will teach them much more than just describing them.

“I try to focus on experiential education. It’s not about me going blah, blah, blah at the front. It’s about them having an experience they might not have otherwise.”

Community mentors, local experts

Community mentors who participated in sustainability day included Greg Osadchuk, Lauren Andres, Baden Wilton, Shauna Fidler, Joe Moreira and Mel Reasoner, as well as representatives from various community groups. When the Star caught up with Taress Alexis, the daughter of former Sinixt spokesperson Marilyn James, she was chatting with students about, among other things, indigenous stewardship of land.

“The kids really came together and had some good discussions about climate change, sustainability and how it affects them,” Alexis said.

Environmentalist Laura Sacks discussed water with her charges.

“We’re talking about conservation, outdoor water use, ways to reuse water and how to deal with flooding. I’m really excited. I think they’re listening, I think they’re engaged in the issue and I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Down the hallway teachers Danny Leeming and Heather Shippit guided students through the process of making iMovie trailers that they’re going to broadcast on their in-school TV station.

The spots will encourage students to be conscientious about their transportation decisions.

“I hope this is the start of something cool,” Leeming said.

 

Good neighbours, global citizens

The day’s success was greatly aided by the cooperation of Mount Sentinel’s neighbouring farm, and its leader Isaac Dawson. It’s a relationship that has been growing closer recently, and one Campbell wants to cultivate. The school currently operates on a barter system with the farm, allowing them occasional use of their fields and facilities.

“In terms of sustainability, what a terrific opportunity for us! If we want to talk about sustainable farming and food production, they’re right next door to us. We’ve tried to be a really good neighbour to them and they’ve been reciprocating,” said Campbell.

Jones praised the burgeoning relationship.

“One of the most important aspects of this whole day was the inclusion of people throughout our community who’ve come together to support our students. This is a great example of how schools and communities can work together.”

Jones loved the performance by a Doukhobor choir, and spoke effusively about the borscht that had been prepared for the student’s lunch by Doukhobor grandmothers and parents of the students. The Grade 9 and 10 cooking class assisted.

“During her speech, Montana told the crowd she believes Mt. Sentinel is leading the way in focusing on the environment and tackling the issue of climate change. This is the first and only school in our district to hold a day like this, and it’s the kick-off to a broad year-long project.”

The school will collaborate on an action plan, and will begin to do their small part to contribute to environmental sustainability.

“I’m energized by that,” said Jones.

Just Posted

Smoke scraps MS Bike Challenge

The annual fundraising event cancelled its cycling Saturday because of poor air quality

Nelson’s mural festival: scenes from opening night

Crowds wandered the streets and alleys finding delightful surprises in unlikely places

Smoky skies force flight cancellations

Air quality in West Kootenay also a health concern

Castlegar bridge designed by architect of collapsed Italian bridge

Riccardo Morandi designed the Kinnaird Bridge, which is part of Highway 3.

Columbia River Treaty negotiators met in Nelson this week

Next session is in Portland in October

‘We will not forget:’ Thousands attend funeral fallen Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

Haze expected to last the next several days, Environment Canada said

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

Some of B.C.’s air quality levels worse than Jodhpur, India

Okanagan, northern B.C. seeing some of the worst air quality globally

VIDEO: Ground crews keep a close eye on largest B.C. wildfire

Originally estimated to be 79,192 hectares, officials said more accurate mapping shows smaller size

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada paid for study to understand Canadian attitudes

These are the highest-paid actresses of 2018

In its list released this week Forbes said all 10 earned a total of $186 million before tax

Most Read