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COP26 has local meaning in WSD sustainable education

November 3, 2021
COP26 3

Over 40 World leaders are currently meeting in Glasgow, UK for the COP26, the United Nation’s 2021 Climate Change Conference.

It is the 26th meeting between UN member nations. COP stands for Conference of the Parties, hence the name COP 26. The event focuses on uniting the world to tackle climate change by implementing innovative solutions that reduce carbon and methane emissions by 2030.

Winnipeg School Division (WSD) students, teachers and staff also have the same passion for creating a better world, so they constantly strive to raise awareness about making the right choices that minimize the effects of global warming.

"Winnipeg School Division has created and implemented a detailed plan for educating our students about sustainability. Our ESD committee organizes regular PD events for teachers and undertakes special initiatives that develop the knowledge, the skills and the values necessary for students to become informed and responsible decision-makers," said Rob Riel, WSD Director responsible for Education for Sustainable Development.

"WSD educators support students to research and share their learnings about global and environmental issues. Everyone is encouraged to take small steps like reducing wastage, recycling, composting, energy conservation, planting trees to ensure there will be ‘Enough For All, forever’."

Five WSD schools are part of Root and Shoots, a program built on the legacy and vision of Dr Jane Goodall to empower young people to create practical solutions to the challenges in the community.

High School students at Elmwood and Kelvin participate every year in the Arcticnet Annual Conference and research. A group of students visit Churchill, MB to study the impact of recent climate changes on polar bears, food security in coastal communities of the Canadian Arctic and track changes in permafrost. As the Earth's climate warms, the permafrost starts melting and releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.    

Air pollution from harmful gas emissions is damaging our environment, animals and ecology. To find a solution to these problems, students are learning how making minor changes to our lifestyle like eating local and more vegetables, growing our food, walking or biking more to school and work, using electric vehicles and clean energy can help the atmosphere to repair the ozone layer.

“At Gordon Bell, the guiding values for the work of learning and teaching is Kinship, Generosity and Reconciliation. These values underpin the work that we are doing to care for each other, the land and water and ourselves. All students and staff are encouraged to demonstrate and weave this learning into all aspects of learning,” said Vinh Huyn, Principal at Gordon Bell High School.

“Tangibly, the green space and garden is a visible and welcoming space for the community. Students and families work together and over the past number of summers, the garden has grown in scope and scale. Students are able to contribute, with staff support and guidance, to a Garden to Table approach where they see and experience our school gardens through land-based learning during the school year. The garden on the green space has an open harvest philosophy and practice as members are invited to harvest what they need and to contribute to the care of the garden as they are able.”

Gordon Bell High School works closely with community partners and last week Winnipeg Trail Association offered to support the school by planting trees in the open space. 

Most WSD Schools have Environment clubs where they meet to discuss ways to promote climate change awareness. Students are excited to organize conferences, invite expert speakers who guide and impart their knowledge to the students attending.

In May 2019, a huge student-led conference called Youth 4 Sustainable Living was organized at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. The purpose of the event was to Expose, Educate and Empower more than 400 students about various issues we all are facing through 18 workshops and discussions.

The students who attended the full day conference later shared their knowledge with their school teams and the message of ‘every action matters’ and ‘together we can all contribute’ was successfully received.

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