EcoVision lands grant to help expand programs

If it were a sports team, the Lacombe Composite High School EcovVision Club would be considered a dynasty.

BACK TO NATURE - Steven Schultz plants an Evans Cherry tree in the edible forest as part of EcoVision’s new outdoor classroom and garden project.

BACK TO NATURE - Steven Schultz plants an Evans Cherry tree in the edible forest as part of EcoVision’s new outdoor classroom and garden project.

If it were a sports team, the Lacombe Composite High School EcovVision Club would be considered a dynasty.

For the fourth year running, EcoVision has received $10,000 for the A+ for Energy grant from BP Petroleum. Steven Schultz, staff supervisor for the club, said that this continuous funding shows that EcoVision has some great ideas that are turning heads.

“It tells me that we do have some inspirational ideas,” said Schultz.

This year, EcoVision received the grant to go towards the Lacombe Educational Aquaponics Food System (LEAFS), which is a subproject of the greenhouse project that began two years ago. Next year, the club plans to apply for the grant to fund its edible forest and outdoor classroom project, which began over the weekend.

EcoVision first heard of and applied for the grant while trying to secure funds for its solar panel project in 2009.

Once the money came through, the club had enough to double the scope of its project from a three kilowatt system to a six kilowatt system as well as incorporate some hands-on education components to the program as well.

To be eligible for the A+ for Energy grant, projects must be related to the production of energy, must benefit the school, the community and be educational, he said.

“The educational curriculum outcomes are the most stringent of all the grants we’ve written for,” said Schultz. “It has to be applicable within your classroom.”

EcoVision was founded seven years ago when a student wishing to leave a legacy approached Schultz with a challenge, he said. That challenge was to get the school completely self-sufficient and off the grid.

It was an ambitious goal and the club soon realized they wouldn’t be able to take it on all at once. Instead, they decided to take on a series of smaller projects to build towards that goal and encourage students to join in.

While the goal may have been a benefit to the schools, the purpose of the club was to benefit its students, he said.

“We wanted to empower students to make a difference.”

EcoVision’s first project was to improve the recycling services that were available at the school. At the time, there was no cardboard recycling and very little paper recycling.

As such, EcoVision worked with the then Town of Lacombe to enhance the paper recycling at the school and introduce cardboard recycling.

One of the aspects of being a leader, said Schultz, is being able to share one’s message. To do that, EcoVision has become very involved in social media, multimedia messaging and members have spoken at a number of conferences about EcoVision projects.

People are catching on.

Schultz said that students are realizing they can be leaders.

“Students have bought into the concept that they can make a difference,” he said. He added that what EcoVision had accomplished would not be possible without the support of the “extraordinary community” of Lacombe.

“Without community volunteers, we would be an island,” said Schultz.

EcoVision’s next project began on May 25 with the planting of the edible forest, garden and beginnings of the outdoor classroom.

Schultz said the club came up with the idea because there are no outdoor spaces for students to hang out. Then, the club took that idea further, deciding to place fruit-bearing plants, benches, bird and bat houses and an outdoor classroom in the area as well.

Schultz, a science teacher, said the garden has numerous hands-on educational opportunities as well.

“Instead of saying in class, ‘An apple comes from a flower,’ you can go out to the orchard and take a look at the flowers and watch the bees pollinate and pick the fruit.”

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