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Sustainable schools honoured

 Lord Nelson accepting award.jpg

Lord Nelson School receives their Manitoba Excellence in Sustainability Award from Kristina Hunter, Vice-chairperson, Manitoba RoundTable for Sustainable Development (second from the left) and the Honourable Gord Mackintosh, Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship (far right).
Every day is Earth Day at award-winning schools
Sustainable development programs and projects at Winnipeg School Division schools are really getting noticed. Four the 12 Manitoba Excellence in Sustainability Awards and honourable mentions for 2013 were awarded to schools or teachers from the Division.
Lord Nelson School won the Education for Sustainability Award, and Rockwood School Principal Curt Belton received an honourable mention in the same category. Lauren Sawchuk, Home Economics teacher at Sisler High School, won the Champion for Sustainability Award, and the Sustainable Community Award was presented to Strathcona School’s “Folly Forest”.
Lord Nelson School was recognized by the province for integrating sustainability into classroom instruction, extra-curricular and community programs, as well as students’ daily lives. Projects included an outdoor classroom, which educates students, staff and community members about sustainability, and student groups that support human rights and act as ambassadors for Winnipeg Harvest.
One of the many successful projects that has taught the students, staff and community members about the three pillars of sustainability – environment, human health, and well-being and economy – is the Outdoor Classroom, said Amy Karlinsky, Vice Principal at Lord Nelson School.
“Through the Outdoor Classroom, we are able to connect today’s urban-focused students and families to the serenity, beauty and knowledge of nature within their own schoolyard,” said Ms. Karlinsky at the awards ceremony on March 17.
Strathcona School’s Folly Forest, recognized for its sustainability and inclusivity, also serves as an outdoor classroom, as well as a meeting place for students, families and the whole community.
“We embarked on a journey that was informed by studies proving that relationships with nature are very important to children’s well-being, and their overall physical, cognitive and emotional development, which helps with academic performance as well,” said Principal Anastasia Sych-Yereniuk, who explained that the Folly Forest is part of an Artful Learning Garden project that has beautified the concrete schoolyard using plants, trees and re-claimed objects, for example turning old wooden beams into benches.
Students were involved in imagining the space, and their vision was incorporated into the designs created with University of Manitoba landscape architects.
“We were really excited to get the award, but we’re even more excited to have the garden. I’m just delighted that there’s a beautiful place for our children and families to gather and play naturally,” Ms. Sych-Yereniuk added.
Teacher Lauren Sawchuk was recognized for the many projects she has implemented to increase sustainability at Sisler and in her students’ lives, including gardening, composting and an improved recycling program. Her after-school cooking program uses local, organic and fair trade ingredients, including produce from Sisler’s school garden.
Sawchuk says she couldn’t be more proud of her students, and was both surprised and touched to learn they had nominated her for the Champion for Sustainability Award.
“I do these things because I believe they are important, not for the recognition, but nonetheless I still appreciated it,” Ms. Sawchuk said.
“The students are so committed.  Every time I feel stressed out or wonder why I am doing these activities, I see the kids and what they are getting out of it, what they are learning, and how in the end they seem to make everything fun. I have realized that all this extra time is actually what really adds value to my teaching career.”
The Education for Sustainability Award honourable mention was awarded to Curt Belton, Principal of Rockwood School, for his initiation and support of sustainability projects that educate students, staff and the community at large. He also shares his knowledge of, and commitment to, education for sustainable development through workshops for schools, teachers and administrators.

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