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Students from across Manitoba learned how to cook with fair trade ingredients, made their own vermi-composters using live worms, and used their personal pedal power to blend organic smoothies, all at Sisler High School’s annual Sustainability Conference.
This year’s conference, held April 24, was completely run by students and attracted its biggest crowd ever. More than 100 students and teachers signed up for the day of presentations and student-led, hands-on workshops designed to empower students to take action and make a difference. More than half of those students were from other schools.
“What we do here at Sisler has inspired me to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and has made me a better person. We want to show other students that they can make changes and create positive effects in their community,” said Grade 12 student Charmaine Agsalud, who helped plan the conference and gave a presentation about Sisler’s after-school cooking club which included a demonstration of cooking with fair trade ingredients.
“A lot of students don’t know what Fair Trade is. They don’t understand that very little of the money we spend on the things we buy goes to the farmers and their families who produce the food,” Agsalud said.
The conference is unique in part because it’s “kids explaining to kids what they do,” said Home Economics teacher Lauren Sawchuk, who has implemented award-winning sustainability initiatives at Sisler including gardening, composting , improved recycling programs and the cooking club.
“It was a pretty incredible day! The feedback we received from students and teachers who attended was wonderful. Many said that the conference had inspired them to go back to their own schools and make change happen,” Sawchuk said. “I honestly feel like each year it gets better and influences more people into making wiser choices, and that is the key to truly being sustainable.”
Sisler students not only presented at the free conference, they also did all the planning and organizing, including choosing the topics, booking other presenters and registering participants. Sawchuk’s students also cooked chili featuring local, fair trade and organic ingredients for lunch, and invited participants to make their own smoothies for $1, by riding on a pedal-powered “bike blender”.
The conference delivered the message that every effort counts, no matter how small.
“If they try, students can really make change and create positive effects in their community,” said Agsalud.