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ESLCHS named in top 10 world’s best schools for environmental action

Through its EcoVision program, École Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School (ESLCHS) has made the shortlist of Top 10 World’s Best Schools for Environmental Action.
Grant Creasey spoke to students, staff, and local dignitaries at the announcement of ESLCHS making the short list of the Top 10 Schools for Environmental Action. (Christi Albers-Manicke/LACOMBE EXPRESS)

Through its EcoVision program, École Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School (ESLCHS) has made the shortlist of Top 10 World’s Best Schools for Environmental Action.

Wolf Creek Public School (WCPS) and ESLCHS made the announcement during a conference on June 10. The final winners will be announced in October at World Education Week. A prize of $250,000 US will be equally shared among the winners of the five Prizes, with each receiving an award of $50,000 US.

The World’s Best School Prizes was launched this year by T4 Education in partnership with Canada-based global software company D2L, Accenture and American Express.

“We have launched the World’s Best School Prizes as a grassroots solution to help build the systemic change needed. By telling the stories of inspirational schools that are transforming the lives of their students and making a real difference to their communities, schools can share their best practices and have their voices heard at the top table to help transform education,” said Vikas Pota, founder of T4 education and the World’s Best School Prizes.

“This is a tremendous honour to be in the top 10 and we are humbled to be selected out of the countless schools across the planet,” said Steven Schultz, EcoVision teacher at ESLCHS.

EcoVision began back in 2006, with a comment from a teacher, “words without actions are meaningless,” it proved the spark of inspiration that would change the school forever.

A year later, a student returned with an offer to start a project that would take the school off the electricity grid. She put together a vision statement, a plan and gained the support of fellow students and the school’s environmental club, EcoVision, was born.

In 2010, a fire broke out on the roof of ESLCHS and destroyed the school’s solar project. Staff and students said that the sight of students upset about the damage underscored the importance of the club’s work.

The club bounced back with new initiatives like a near net-zero geodesic tropical greenhouse, a two-acre garden that eventually produced two hundred fruit trees, and fifty vegetable beds and several patches that grew potatoes, garlic and squash. A few years later, the school started a beekeeping program and has grown to include eight hives.

EcoVision is not just limited to school days. Grade 11 student and member of EcoVision, Benjamin Podolas said that students come and tend to the gardens, hives and goats throughout the summer. They also attend the Lacombe Farmer’s Market to sell the products of their hard work including goat cheese, herbs, vegetables and honey.

Grade 10 student Lexus Robertson is involved with the goat program through EcoVision and said that next year they hope to have goat yoga included in their program.

“All of the students are more than worthy of the honour they are receiving today. The Lacombe council and the entire city are proud,” said Grant Creasey, mayor of Lacombe after the announcement. He said that Schultz’s passion and inspiration don’t go unnoticed within the community and school.

The top three finalists for each of the five World’s Best School Prizes which are for Community Collaboration, Environmental Action, Innovation, Overcoming Adversity, and Supporting Healthy Lives, will be announced later this year.

After a public advisory vote, the winner of each category will be chosen based on rigorous criteria by a judging academy comprising distinguished leaders all across the globe including academics, educators, non-governmental organizations (NGO), social entrepreneurs, government, civil society, and the private sector.

Schultz said that if the school wins a final award the funds would be used to invest in student-led environmental initiatives and create scholarships that would allow students to earn their qualifications through workshops, courses and other programs.

All 50 shortlisted schools across the five Prizes will share their best practices through tool-kits that showcase their “secret sauce” to innovative approaches and step-by-step instructions on how others can replicate their methods to help improve education everywhere.

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