At the start of the school year, the Lacombe Composite High School’s EcoVision Club, spearheaded by science teacher Steve Schultz, were given an assignment. Students were asked to come up with an innovative project which could in some way improve the ecosystem of the school’s greenhouse.
Due to the few issues with the greenhouse and gardens during the summer on the high school’s property, the students had found an opportunity that’s uniqueness is something to commend.
“Students at the beginning of the year were noticing that the previous two years, we’ve struggled at keeping the gardens alive over the summer holidays. The students thought their creative project would be to install an drip irrigation system. We had no idea of the irrigation until the students started doing research,” said Schultz.
In light of the lack of care being given to the gardens during the summer, and the waste of water from the Battle River Watershed Alliance, the EcoVision Club set out with a project in order to fully understand the positive effects from drip irrigation and the problems it could solve.
“It solves two problems with the watershed that we live in, which is Battle River,” Schultz explained. “The two concerns that it solves is water conservation or water efficiency and water pollution or water quality.”
A representative from Battle River Watershed Alliance came to the school to talk to the EcoVision students as well as the Grade 10 students, and she told them about an opportunity to come up with a project which they believed could solve local watershed issues.
Two EcoVision students, Amy Lamb and Rachael Reitsma were the finalists from the contest where LCHS EcoVision participated on May 14th. They took all information the Club had gathered through the year and put it together in a PowerPoint and speech to explain their reasoning behind choosing drip irrigation.
“We want to address these two issues with our ‘LIFE Project’ – the Lacombe Irrigation Foods Experiment. The LIFE project will collect rainwater off the roof of our school to feed a drip irrigation system installed to over 100 fruit trees and 40 raised beds,” explained Reitsma. “Drip irrigation will decrease water use, increase water quality due to the less runoff and increase yields and sustainability. There will be a lower community time commitment with increased yield, making the gardens more sustainable.”
Lamb also took charge by explaining the advantages of drip irrigation and how this will help the high school’s garden and greenhouse system.
“One, there is less water lost to evaporation, wind drift and runoff on driveways and roads. Two, 90 per cent or more of the water goes directly where you want it – onto the roots of the plants. This increases yields and decreases the amount of weeds. Three, there is less chance of runoff, over watering and plant disease due to the fact that the plants are healthier. Drip irrigation is easy to install, easy to maintain and makes our gardens more sustainable.”
The girls’ well-researched and well-delivered speech/presentation secured them a spot, placing second out of the 10 finalists. The two students walked away with $900 prize money for themselves as well as $900 to go towards the installation of their drip irrigation system.
“Scott’s Irrigation will install the main pipes and then on May 28th, 12 or more students and community volunteers will install the feeder hoses and drip emitters,” said Reitsma. “The first phase of our project will be to install the drip irrigation system to our fruit trees and raised beds. The system will allow us to increase our watering efficiency.”
Not only will the high school be implementing their drip irrigation system on May 28th, but they will also introduce their Adopt a Garden initiative to help with community involvement and responsibility. There were two main issues the students could see; one, that the summer garden was not getting attention due to the lack of student participation – such as taking holidays, etc. Two, there was a need for gardens in the community.
Killing two birds with one stone, the Adopt a Garden is a way for community members to help out with the gardens during the summer, and to get incentive as well.
“To meet those two needs we said that if you will adopt a student’s garden and maintain it, pull the weeds and then you can have your own garden plot. Then in September this year, we’ll have a harvest celebration where we will bring in the community members that adopted a garden and the students and we’ll have a celebration.”
A next step in innovation, Schultz added the irrigation system will be also hooked up to Wi-fi, so those who do adopt a garden can water their adopted garden from their homes or while they themselves are on holidays.
“I just want to let the community know that they are welcome here, we want this to be family-friendly. All the beds that we have in our gardens are raised so that’s to accommodate the elderly. The drip irrigation system we’ll be installing will have moisture sensors and rain sensors so that we conserve a maximum amount of water but also so that it’s easy to use. It will be Wi-fi enabled so people can actually water their gardens from their homes if they’re on holidays,” he explained.
Schultz said he is very proud of the work his students, both past and present, have been doing over the years. Everything from the high school’s solar panels to this new project; he said that EcoVision is a great program that teaches students more understanding than most.
“It is unique program in the sense that it allows student leaders to successfully carry out their environmental dreams, but it does more than that – it allows students the ability to enhance their educational opportunities. Secondly, it allows them to understand that they are making a difference in the environment, so it has an environmental impact as well. Third, it allows us a unique opportunity to collaborate with our community.”
Schultz encourages the community to join the EcoVision students at the high school on May 28th for the installation of the drip irrigation feed lines and drip emitters to the fruit trees and garden beds as well to officially launch the Adopt a Garden program. The program will begin from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. at the LCHS Dow Community Gardens and Outdoor classroom.
“I really want the community to know that this will be a huge encouragement to our students, knowing there’s other people in the community that care and are willing to take care of their gardens when they don’t have the opportunity to. I’m really proud of our students from our school over the past nine years,” said Schultz.