Beyond Recycling

April’s heroes, in a slightly tedious-link sort of way, stem from pizza. Pizza being utterly delicious must surely result in some pretty special heroes. This month is also the month of all things green, so it seemed fitting to highlight some special green heroes. I found some in the form of Dawn Deydey and Megan Walsh, who over the past six years have developed the green initiative, beyondrecycling.ca, into the fantastic and hands-on educational program it is today. Like many initiatives in Fernie, it started small and has since developed into a Kootenay Regional Program, touching the lives of many children and adults. If you have a child who has reached Grade 5, then you’ll no doubt have been lucky enough to receive your own personal “home audit”…

How did this program grow into what it is today?
In short: a lot of grant writing, some seriously innovative lesson planning and the development of an ever-growing facilitator manual. All from two very dedicated program developers and facilitators. Both Dawn and Megan have been in it from the start and have made it what it is today. From an initiative developed by The Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company in Canmore, (carbon neutral, educating foodies), Dawn and Megan completely reworked the program, developing the once 12 page manual into 120+ pages, which in 2009 became a Wildsight Regional Program, travelling into schools throughout ten regions in the West Kootenays.

How does the program fit into the school year?
Spread over twenty one-hour sessions, Dawn and Megan collectively facilitate an in-school environmental education program covering everything from the History of Waste to Sustainability and everything in between. It works best with Grade 5’s it seems, children who are primarily “impressionable, excitable and who like to volunteer and take part” – a perfect target audience.

Over the years, it certainly seems these one-hour sessions have become increasingly important in the curriculum, being “incorporated into lessons and tests, often even counting for marks”, with lessons and themes being subsequently developed further by teachers. Matching to the curriculum seems to benefit everyone, “learning outcomes are achieved, whilst teachers are able to focus on other things, such as observing things such as classroom dynamics.” Patrice Oscienny, a teacher at Isabella Dicken Elementary School who has incorporated this program into her school year since it began, describes it well – it’s “engaging, informative, fun, convincing, educational, well-organized, focused and critical to today’s youth.”

How do the kids react to the sessions?

It’s pretty easy to see how Dawn and Megan’s sessions are fun. They are two lively young women with endless ideas and creativity, who can focus a whole lot of energy into just one short and dynamic hour. And seemingly this hour can often leave “kids empowered” – writing letters to newspapers, partaking in hilarious heated debates fighting over a number of alternative energy sources and coming out of it with more knowledge than many an adult.

Their knowledge and learning is demonstrated in the “Home Audit” where kids have to discover a number of things about their home, such as how it is heated, or how the garbage is sorted and then “come up with a list of actions that could be put into effect to reduce energy use. Kids not only learn at school, but they bring knowledge directly home and parents learn too.”

Furthermore, Dawn and Megan have worked on providing resources not just for other facilitators throughout the East Kootenays, but also for their students via the interactive student pages on their website. “We only have one hour in the classroom and so it’s important to have extra resources available.” And like everything else associated with this program, they are visual, fun and interactive, with students from all schools being encouraged to blog about their learning and experiences.

In short, this program is awesome and is equally and enthusiastically supported by kids, staff, parents, educators and of course invaluable funders – Dawn and Megan can’t thank BC Hydro and all other supporters for their continuing support. And, if like me you graduated Grade 5 before you’d heard the term ozone layer, check out www.beyondrecycling.ca. You could be surprised by what you learn.