Fifty-six students in Grades Five and Six at Queen Elizabeth School were recently given a unique opportunity to be one of only nine elementary schools across western Canada to participate in the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producer's (CAPP) award-winning Energy in Action program.
On May 17, the students collaborated with the organizers, school staff and employees of eleven different local oil and gas producers to create a sustainable outdoor classroom.
Energy in Action is a one-day, energy literacy program, at no cost to rural schools, which complements the school's science and social studies curriculum. Students are given the opportunity to learn about petroleum, the oil and gas industry and the importance of environmental stewardship in their playground and community.
The program began the day with a morning energy literacy session, which included games and activities, presented by Inside Education. The students then teamed up with company volunteers and community members to spend the afternoon creating an outdoor classroom, installing benches, planting trees and shrubs and filling tractor tires with flowers and vegetables.
"They really take ownership when they actually build it themselves," said Kimberly Gray, Communications Advisor for CAPP about the outdoor classroom, which provides an exceptional learning space for students to study, enjoy quiet reading time or observe nature's cycles in their school yard.
CAPP donates up to $5,000 for the project and works with schools and their School Community Councils to plan and source all the materials. Then, on Energy in Action day, CAPP brings in local volunteers from CAPP member companies to work with the students to complete the project. Care and maintenance of the project after the event is up to the school.
Dave Edgerton from Queen Elizabeth School Community Council designed the blueprints for the gardens and donated the landscape fabric as well as preparing the area for planting.
Ken Fleming of the Facilities department of Southeast Cornerstone School Division conducted the excavation, supplied the clay, prepped and levelled the site. Nicole and Tyler Kmita supplied five tractor tires and the flax mulch. The Weyburn Horticultural Society donated the majority of the plants for the project and Andy Dobson managed lunch services.
More than 33 corporate volunteers joined forces and took part in the project, from Enerplus, Crescent Point, NewAlta, Cenovus, CNRL, NAL, PetroBakken, Golder, Apache, Tervita and Champion Technologies. Employees from many of these companies travelled from other provinces to be part of the action. More than seven community volunteers also participated.
"In the afternoon, we worked together to put what they've learned into practice," said Gray. Some schools will have the students build bird boxes or grow community gardens, but the outdoor classroom is usually the objective.
"Any kind of project that supports the message of environmental stewardship," said Gray. "Everyone has a role to play when taking care of their environment. That's the message that we want to leave with the students."
"(Oil and Gas) is such a vital industry in our country and for our economy, so we teach kids the difference between renewable versus non-renewable resources and the important of energy development in a wholistic way in Canada," Gray added.
Energy in Action strengthens relationships between oil and gas companies and the communities where they operate. It also promotes collaboration amongst industry, schools, local businesses, governments and environmental organizations.
Energy in Action's 2012 team has travelled to nine schools this month, reaching more than 400 students. This unique initiative has involved sixty companies and close to 2,200 company volunteers in 60 different communities and 80 schools across Canada since 2004. Collectively, they have planted thousands of trees and shrubs, and taught nearly 8,000 students, teachers and community residents about the petroleum industry and the benefits of careful resource development.
"Nothing you ever do for your community and your children is ever wasted," said Jason Veness, Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator and Energy in Action Team Lead, Enerplus. "Energy in Action really embodies that thought and provides an opportunity for kids, communities and industry partners to demonstrate environmental stewardship in the form of education, energy and involvement. Our goal here today is to align ourselves with a strong sense of community vision and work together to ensure that we achieve it in a way that values the future sustainability and health of our communities."