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Going 'green' pays off for Saanich elementary school
Two years ago, an ambitious gang of eight-year-olds walked into David Hovis's office and kindly suggested their school needed an environmental club.
The Campus View elementary principal is glad he said yes, for plenty of reasons. Next Wednesday, the school is launching its second annual EarthFest community festival, and for its overall environmental efforts, this week Staples Canada awarded Campus View $25,000 worth of computer equipment.
The festival and the award are in a large part thanks to the efforts of Reina Girvan-Randall, one of the kids who helped launch the school "Green Team" club in 2011. The 10-year-old Grade 5 student penned an essay in February outlining what the school has done to boost its environmental participation and recycling program, and submitted it for the Staples Canada's "Recycle for Education" contest.
"I wrote (the essay) in one night, on the night before it was due," Reina said. "I just wrote about the things we do to be Earth friendly."
"Twenty five thousand dollars for one evening's work is a high return," Hovis quipped.
Yesterday at the school, corporate and local Staples representatives unveiled a poster announcing Campus View had won the $25,000 prize, one of 10 in Canada and selected from 600 entries.
"It was shocking. I didn't expect it. I was really happy and surprised," Reina said laughing. "When they said you won $25,000 worth of computer equipment, I though it was going to be a different thing. I kind of thought the chart would show how Earth-friendly Staples had been over the year."
The school itself doesn't have a computer lab, and Hovis said staff and students will give input on how to best improve technology at the school. "We want to look at different options, like the opportunity for a mobile cart of laptops or iPads," he said. "This is well needed at the school and it's very exciting."
Over the past two years, the Campus View school Green Team has grown from a few kids to 32, plus staff and parent volunteers. It's first campaign was a "bike and walk to school week," where the team tallied and announced participant numbers. This year it helped push the school toward a full recycling program, including food scraps. Team members collect classroom recycling bins every Friday.
"I don't enjoy (picking up) composting, but I always remind myself it helps the environment by doing it," said Reina, who besides being an impassioned environmentalist, enjoys choir, gymnastics and piano. "Overall, EarthFest is my favourite event because all the stations are really fun. The stations are run by the Green Team, all Grade 4s and 5s. It's nice to be part of that."
Reina herself had proposed EarthFest at an ecological summer camp called Friends Uniting for Nature (FUN), which granted her $400 for the initial 2012 event, and backed the festival with another $500 this year.
Like last year, the school's EarthFest will feature student-created environmental education displays, and has expanded to include a bike rally. Last year Reina helped run "guess how long it takes to biodegrade." This year she and a friend will host a station on endangered animal species. "Even if (the subject) isn't fun, we try to make a game of it and give out prizes," she said.
Organizations like the Capital Regional District, the Victoria Natural History Society and Habitat for Humanity will set up booths. One time Campus View school parent and prolific climate scientist (and B.C. Green Party candidate) Andrew Weaver will give a talk. Donations of organic foods from Victoria farms and grocery stores will allow the event to feed several hundred people.
"UVic is now involved with a traditional welcoming ceremony by an elder at the First Peoples House, it really feels like a community event this year," said Reina's mom Anita Girvan, a lead parent volunteer behind EarthFest. She credits Hovis with allowing the students and parents to grow the Green Team and its projects.
"It's not every principal, who when kids come and ask to do this, says 'Of course.' He gave us carte blanche to do this (festival). It's a lovely climate at the school with Mr. Hovis at the helm."
"It's really been about the kids in this creating a success behind this whole project. There'd be no Green Team or EarthFest without parent volunteers and Anita showing leadership with EarthFest," Hovis said. "It takes the students and parents to make this special event happen."
Campus View elementary EarthFest is on Wendesday, April 24, 3900 Gordon Head Rd., and is open to the community. People are encouraged to bring plates and utensils and cups to sample donated food.
The bike rally starts at 3:30 p.m. and goes from the school to the First Peoples House at UVic for a welcoming ceremony at 3:45 p.m. EarthFest activities at Campus View run from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.