Just Powers: Making the energy transition better for everyone

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

THIS STORY IS PART OF OUR SERIES ON WOMEN AND THE ENERGY TRANSITION. Women are key to increasing the momentum towards a lower carbon future and making sure no one is left behind. Across Alberta they are leading the charge in a shift to a lower-carbon world, as business and community leaders, educators, communicators and innovators. From industry professionals and leading researchers, to those running community workshops, organizing campaigns and changing their homes, these are their stories.

Just Powers: Making the energy transition better for everyone

Every year, Sheena Wilson gives her university students an assignment: choose a favourite subject or hobby and figure out how it relates to energy and the current transition away from a fossil fuel-based energy system.

The students must analyze how their interests could look different under a different energy system and how those changes might impact their community – and their day-to-day lives.

“At the beginning, most students don’t believe that their interests are linked to the energy industry,” said Wilson, associate professor at the University of Alberta’s Campus Saint-Jean and principle investigator of the Just Powers research initiative.

Launched in 2018, Just Powers is an inter-disciplinary and community-based project looking at climate justice issues ­– that is, framing climate change through an ethical and political lens, rather than one that is purely scientific – and examining social and cultural power in the energy transition.

Viewing the energy transition solely as a capitalist problem – where new technologies provide a new market and therefore potential for profit – does nothing to create a more liveable future for everyone, said Wilson.

“We need to think seriously about what we want to keep from the age of oil,” she said. “What’s important to us and what we’re willing to let go of and how an energy transition actually might be better for us all.”

We need to think seriously about what we want to keep from the age of oil: what’s important to us and what we’re willing to let go of and how an energy transition actually might be better for us all.”
— Sheena Wilson

Voices and knowledge

In an attempt to shift the discourse, the Just Powers project is tapping into a range of voices historically underrepresented in the energy transition conversation, like minority groups, indigenous communities, youth and women. The goal is to get people thinking about who owns energy systems, who benefits from them, and how they can be both affordable and accessible to everyone. 

“Bodies that held certain knowledges – feminized voices, voices of colour – they’ve been undervalued, or intentionally silenced and overwritten,” said Wilson, adding that climate issues are not separate from other social issues, like gender discrimination, poverty and racism, for example.

A feminist approach to energy transition is not restricted to women, said Wilson, but is a way of thinking holistically about energy systems, people and relationships.

 “Leaders who do this value reintroducing a broad range of perspectives and knowledges not usually consulted about energy,” said Wilson, “which is often seen as merely a technical issue, when really we all need to take energy seriously as a social issue.”

Designing new energy systems is a big part of designing the shape of our future lives and communities. If that isn’t something relevant to everyone, I don’t know what is.
— Sheena Wilson
Photo by Kenneth Tam

Photo by Kenneth Tam

Different mediums

To reach the most people, Just Powers – which is funded primarily by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the University of Alberta’s Future Energy Systems and Kule Institute for Advanced Study – is taking a non-traditional approach to documenting and sharing knowledge and resources.

“We’ve known since the 50s and 60s that climate change is an issue,” said Wilson. “I don’t think another chart or graph is going to make that much of a difference anymore,”

Through mediums like creative non-fiction, visual storytelling, podcasts, games and art, Just Powers is designing projects that give scholars and experts with different perspectives the opportunity to share their knowledge.

For example, Perfect Storm: Feminist Energy Transition is a role-playing game that demonstrates class and cultural politics in Canada’s energy transition. Bigstone Cree: A Vision for the Future is a documentary project that explores the impact of the energy transition on Indigenous communities. The Speculative Energy Futures project is empowering scientists, activists and artists to collaborate with each other.

In addition, the iDoc project has collected over a hundred interviews with Canadians working on climate change, from engineers to community organizers. The complete interviews, along with easy-to-share video clips, will be hosted on an open access archive within the next few months. Meanwhile the Just Powers podcast, now in Season 3, is giving a literal voice to many who have been historically overlooked in the energy transition.

We’ve known since the 50s and 60s that climate change is an issue. I don’t think another chart or graph is going to make that much of a difference anymore.
— Sheena Wilson

Getting involved

An Abacus Data poll this summer reported 64 per cent of Canadians are worried about the impacts of climate change and half of Albertans say climate change is currently an emergency, or will become one in the next few years.

However, Wilson said, many people are hesitant to get involved for fear of appearing either too political or too uninformed on the subject.

But Wilson says showing up is what counts most.

“The information is out there,” said Wilson. “The truth is we have to start adapting to a different climate, and we can begin to do that by getting involved.”

To that end, Just Powers is organizing a year-long project with La Cité Francophone to look at retrofitting its popular cultural centre, running literacy programs for people wanting to increase their energy transition understanding, and mobilizing high school students to share their own research. And for those searching for initiatives within their own communities, Wilson recommends visiting their municipality websites, like Edmonton’s Community Energy Transition Strategy.

“We need to start talking about these things, learning from each other and figuring it out together as a community,” said Wilson.

“After all, who is energy for? Energy systems shape our lives. They heat and power our built environment, our homes, paving the way for our transportation and communication systems.

“Designing new energy systems is a big part of designing the shape of our future lives and communities. If that isn’t something relevant to everyone, I don’t know what is.”

Theatre company brings climate science to the stage


Theatre company brings climate science to the stage

An Alberta-based theatre company is empowering youth to make conscious environmental decisions by combining science and art.

“Our aim is to explore pertinent social and environmental topics through the arts, leaving our participants and audience feeling connected, inspired and empowered with science and the natural world,” said Christina Chase-Warrier, director of programming at Evergreen Theatre.

Established in 1991, Evergreen Theatre is an educational, science-focused touring company that promotes a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) approach to learning.

The company engages with audiences by putting a scientific spin on stories and topics from popular culture, building on environmental concepts like energy-efficient living, sustainable housing and renewable resources.

According to Chase-Warrier, an arts-integrated approach to learning science can engage a greater number of students in the subject matter, because it facilitates a safe space for collaboration, self-esteem, creativity and risk-taking.

“It is precisely these types of skills that are critical for future scientific and environmentally-minded innovation and economic diversification,” said Chase-Warrier.

It is precisely these types of skills that are critical for future scientific and environmentally-minded innovation and economic diversification.
— Christina Chase-Warrier, Director, Evergreen Theatre

Out-of-the-box learning

Evergreen Theatre’s curriculum-based content is primarily presented through touring shows and artist-in-residency programs.

To reach audiences across the province, the company travels to elementary schools to perform a 50-minute show that includes music, writing, sets, props and costumes.

Unlike traditional theatre shows, students have opportunities to engage with the actors and perform in the show, which can help the audience connect with the concepts presented, said Chase-Warrier.

The topics presented during the performance are also reinforced after the show during a question period led by Evergreen educators.

Recently, Evergreen launched an “Eco-Tales” series, shows that put an environmental spin on traditional fairy-tales.

The first production in the series is The Three Little Pigs and B.B. Wolfe, an adaptation where B.B. Wolfe is a climate scientist who tries to teach the little pigs about energy efficient building practices to withstand the ‘huffing and puffing’ of a changing climate.

“These musical theatre shows are aimed at increasing awareness and action around issues such as climate change, conservation and energy efficiency, while promoting simple actions students can take to care for our earth,” said Chase-Warrier.

For a more hands-on approach, schools can sign up for Evergreen Theatre’s artist-in-residency program. In this case, students have one week to learn how to build their own show – through a series of playwriting and performance workshops – on topics related to what they are studying in school.

Some of those topics include how animals in urban communities are affected by pollution, extreme weather caused by climate change, and the impact of habitat loss on ecosystems.

Learning through theatre

Chase-Warrier said by using visual, auditory and movement-based learning methods throughout their performances, not only are their shows more entertaining, but students are better able to absorb the environmental and scientific concepts woven into the storyline.

For example, students can remember the eco-inspired song lyrics in the shows, because they are adapted to tunes by artists – like Taylor Swift – who are popular with the younger audiences. In the Three Little Pigs, the audience can engage and learn with the pigs as they work to improve their environmental practices and build a sustainable home.

“Approaching energy and climate literacy through the vehicle of music and drama facilitates authentic student awareness and learning around efficiency concepts,” said Chase-Warrier. “This increases the probability of students making tangible attitudinal shifts and behavioural changes in their own daily lives to reduce their carbon footprint.”

And while Evergreen Theatre often addresses global environmental issues, Chase-Warrier said through early exposure to these issues, students can learn to make earth-friendly lifestyle choices and affect positive change in their communities.

“We are optimistic that early exposure to environmental issues in a fun, creative and non-threatening manner will plant a positive and pro-active seed in students’ minds that will further blossom as they mature,” said Chase-Warrier.

Students Accelerating Action: Captain Nichola Goddard School Green Commuting Challenge


Students Accelerating Action: Captain Nichola Goddard School Green Commuting Challenge

Captain Nichola Goddard School in northwest Calgary was built for grades 5 to 9 as a community school, meaning that none of its students had to bus in from outside its catchment area. But despite the fact that nearly all the students lived within two kilometers, many of them were still being driven by their parents. Since the school wasn’t built with motor traffic in mind, it was plagued with congestion, unsafe driving, idling cars and stressed students late for class.

A group of students and teachers at the school decided to change the way students got there. From this, the Green Commuting Challenge was born. The program incentivized walking and cycling for students. It combines teaching students about their ecological footprint with a reward system for those who walk or bike to and from school, including prizes, such as pizza and movie tickets. The challenge makes it clear that everyone can participate and aim for a reward, not just the most devoted human-powered commuters.

Students won’t make lifestyle changes because of what [teachers] tell them. They’ll make lifestyle changes because of what their peers tell them.
— Debbie Rheinstein, Teacher at Nichola Goddard School

The program also makes it easier for younger students to participate, with “Green Commuting Hubs” – places around the community where students meet to walk together under the supervision of a Grade 9 student. By having older students direct and promote the project, the team was able to take advantage of relationships that already existed between students.

“As teachers, we can say things until we’re blue in the face, but students won’t make lifestyle changes because of what we tell them. They’ll make lifestyle changes because of what their peers tell them,” said Debbie Rheinstein, one of the teachers behind the program.

The program is wildly successful. Five years after its inception, Rheinstein saw students approaching staff at the beginning of the year asking about being involved before the Challenge was even advertised to them. It had become a part of the student culture at Nichola Goddard.

Much of the Green Commuting Challenge is administered by a group of Grade 9 students called the Green Commuting Leadership Team. In addition to planning, participating in and presenting the program at the Calgary Mayor’s Environment Expo, these students are instrumental in spreading the culture of environmentalism throughout the school.

Students grew the program among their peers and also among their teachers. They started, “car-free days,” to challenge teachers to join the Green Community Challenge. Rheinstein jokes the teachers felt peer-pressured by the students.

This initiative was successful because of the engagement and leadership of the students at the school. They took a small program and grew it into school-wide action, showcasing the tremendous impact students can have on the community around them.

This story was written in collaboration with The Green Medium.

For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

A climate leadership program for the rest of us

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A climate leadership program for the rest of us

“I want to make a difference: I can’t make a climate treaty, I already compost … what’s in between?”

It’s a sentiment Mike Byerley hears often: More and more people want to get involved in climate action, but don’t know where to start.

Byerley is the director of programming with the Regeneration Learning Society, and runs the annual Alberta Climate Leadership Program.

“The program is for people outside the climate enterprise,” said Byerley, a geologist by training who worked in the Alberta oil patch for 13 years. “They are not activists, they are not climate scientists, they are not working in the policy sector or government.

“The people in the program are basically the 85 per cent of people excluded from participation on climate change.”

The five-month program, which is spread over five weekends, aims to help Alberta residents gain an understanding of the systemic nature of climate change and then apply that understanding to their own situations.

It’s our belief that the people closest to the system
are not the best to change the system.

“It’s our belief that the people closest to the system are not the best to change the system,” he said.

Each year the program accepts 25 participants over the age of 25 who are more established in their professional lives, understand the context in which they are working, and are on a leadership track. Sometimes these are people who have acquired the role of “climate person” or “environmental liaison” at their current jobs.

For example, the program’s alumni include a National Energy Board employee who manages stakeholder relationships with indigenous communities, a climate coordinator for a local governance council, as well as people from the regulatory sector and from oil and gas companies.

“They have the same cares and concerns and interests,” said Byerley, particularly people working in the oil and gas sector, “and they don’t feel like they can do anything.”

The program includes five weekend retreats in different locations (Calgary, Edmonton, Kananaskis and Red Deer). While it doesn’t have an academic focus, the program does begin with some classroom theory on economics, the petro-state, neoliberalism, and how justice affects social change.

“If you are working to change the world, people need to understand what you are asking and be interested in what you are asking,” said Byerley.

Participants then move on to develop their own projects, learning how to design, test and operationalize ideas.

Byerley said more than half of the participants carry their projects through to the end, even after they’ve completed the course. Some of the projects started during the program have led to an oil field company setting up a $2 million green tech fund, a food waste and surplus food recovery program, and an unlikely partnership between a solar energy company and an immigration resettlement worker doing home energy audits.

In addition to the theory and project work, a third aspect of the program is peer-based learning, where participants have the chance to work in groups and learn from each other.

“[We want people] saying lots of things out loud, because that changes your relationship to an idea,” said Byerley.

At the end of the five-month program, the intent is for participants to have the tools, skills and knowledge to add a climate change twist to the work they are already doing.

“We’re not asking people to do new work, we are asking people to add to their work,” said Byerley. “No one wants to do something new, but they don’t mind doing a little more.”

Applications are open until Feb. 25.

Learn more about the Alberta Climate Leadership Program here

For more information on clean tech projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Elementary Students Conduct Their Own Lighting Audit

Hazeldean Elementary Grade 5 students Sawyer and classmates Mosaic of Voices (1).jpeg

Elementary Students Conduct Their Own Lighting Audit

At Hazeldean Elementary School in Edmonton, Grade 5 students created an energy efficiency program through the Innovative Elementary Program. The students were able reduce the energy consumption and cost of lighting at their school and teach other students and teachers about energy efficiency.

“Elementary kids are often overlooked about their ability to make changes and advocate to the things that they care about,” said Grade 5 teacher James Stuart, who manages the Innovate Elementary Program at Hazeldean. This project is one of many ways students have demonstrated the impact they can have in their school community.

They were able to go out into the school and make a measurable difference. [There were] real reductions and it was really rewarding for the kids.
— James Stuart

The first step was to learn about electricity, energy efficiency and light bulbs. Stuart along with some energy experts taught the students about different kinds of light bulbs and how much energy is used for each. They also learned about electricity, how it is produced in Alberta and the environmental impacts of the different types of production.

Next, students used their new knowledge to calculate their school’s electricity consumption by determining the types and consumption of light bulbs, and the number of each type of bulb throughout the building. From there, they monitored how many lights were on in each classroom, checking in at various times of the day to determine when classes were in session, when they were empty, and at the end of the day.

After collecting data, the students had to decide how they would present it. To make their information accessible to everyone, including the youngest students, they used made posters with photos and simple info boxes to teach their peers about the energy consumption of objects in their classroom. They included images of smart boards, desktop computers and lights with the amount of energy each consumed. The posters were distributed throughout the school.

The students also decided to create a contest for the classroom who was able to reduce their lighting energy consumption by the greatest amount. Using the information they had about each room’s energy consumption, they created a poster for each classroom showing its energy consumption. They continued to monitor the energy consumption of each classroom at random times until the end of the contest, with the winners earning hot chocolate made from the students’ self-made solar oven.

At the end of the lighting audit the Grade 5 group presented their findings during the school’s morning announcements. Over that time, they saw a reduction of 40 kWh. That is the equivalent of a 43-inch’ plasma TV running 32 hours a week for a month.

Through this project the students in Stuart’s Grade 5 classroom educated themselves, creatively engaged their school on the topic of energy efficiency, and were able to make changes in their school’s lighting electricity consumption.

“They were able to go out into the school and make a measurable difference,” said Stuart. “[There were] real reductions and it was really rewarding for the kids.”

For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Project Footprint Helps Young Newcomers Take the Lead


Project Footprint Helps Young Newcomers Take the Lead

Project Footprint is a program aimed at young newcomers to Canada, offering environmental programming at a school and housing development in Calgary. The program, run by the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association (CIWA), combines its programming and expertise to reach girls aged nine to 13 with environmental sustainability content.

Project Footprint, now in its third year, came about as a way to encourage and engage young immigrant girls in the global conversation about the environment and climate change, said Project Footprint’s program coordinator Amarjit Parmar.

We wanted to start the program up to get the conversation going, and develop some leadership skills in the girls to let them be global ambassadors
— Amarjit Parmar

“We wanted to start the program up to get the conversation going, and develop some leadership skills in the girls to let them be global ambassadors,” said Parmar.

 There are two parts to the program: regular weekly events with guest speakers, which focus on a wide range of environmental and sustainability topics. In addition, a mentorship program is held twice a month and connects the Project Footprint participants with older students, who work together to create and run sustainability projects.

Project Footprint participants also share their work with their community and peers. At CIWA’s annual youth forum the girls taught participants how to make reusable plastic wrap replacement using beeswax, coconut oil and fabric. Another year they flexed their green thumbs, teaching participants about gardening.

 The team mentorship projects vary each year depending on the interests of the participants. In the past, the young girls have run recycling programs, worked to reduce their plastic waste, and started an upcycling project to turn used clothing into new items.  

 “It was fantastic to see,” said Parmar about the upcycling project, which ended with a grand finale fashion show at school to show off the clothing they had redesigned. “The kids were so creative – they took shirts and made them into handbags.”

 The creativity and passion put into their projects may be fueled by the freedom and ownership they have. Parmar said the projects are based entirely on what the girls want to do, from conception to execution, while the youth mentors are there to support the implementation of the ideas and the creativity.

 “We are a girl’s program at heart,” said Parmar. “So self-confidence, sense of belonging and encouraging leadership is all there.”

For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Nurturing Students on the Innovation Front


Nurturing Students on the Innovation Front

The Innovate Program is a way for high school students to learn outside of a traditional classroom setting and do hands-on projects based on real world problems. The students are able to take on a project of their choice and are supported by educational staff, connected to resources and provided education credits for their work. Most projects emphasize sustainable development, emerging technology, reimagining citizenship for a rapidly changing world and entrepreneurship.

Aaron Dublenko, teacher at Queen Elizabeth High School in Edmonton and mastermind behind the project says, “this program assists students in developing mindsets that empower them to confidently design and implement solution oriented projects.” It also creates an opportunity for them to develop skills through hands-on trial and error and collaboration with peers and experts.

Innovate provides an opportunity for students to explore their interests, creates an encouraging space to make mistakes and troubleshoot designs as well as be creative in what they produce. Here are some of the projects students created.

Green Career Fairs

Students and staff organized five “Green Career Fairs” in Edmonton Public High Schools. Each school hosted 30-40 vendors per fair, with a total of more than 6,000 youth learning about environmentally focused career options. Students in the Green Career Fairs program created questionnaires, informative maps, and fundraised through grants for shirts, snacks and door prizes for the events.

Buildings that Teach

Through this program students explore, learn and change the way energy and resources are used in their school. In the past, students installed Smart Meters in a local arena to analyze electricity consumption. Another group researched their school’s solar passivity potential, natural light, and air quality. Others have completed energy audits, thermal analysis and used DENT meters to record light use over time in their schools. They use their research to inform necessary groups and work to cause infrastructural and behavioral changes in order to reduce the carbon footprints and costs of building operations in their schools and other large buildings.

The Mosaic of Youth Voices on Climate Change

Innovate Students are creating a series of podcasts titled “The Mosaic of Youth Voices on Climate Change.” In these podcasts, students write questions and interview their peers to create discussions about climate change and their future in Alberta. In collaboration with Edmonton’s historian laureate, the students are working to strengthen and illuminate the youth voice on climate change, as well as generate discussion about these topics among their peers.

For more information on how to undertake your own education project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.

Building your own Sun-In-A-Box


Building your own Sun-In-A-Box

After electrical engineering students Nathan Olson and David Roszko completed a research project involving medical electronics at the University of Alberta last year, they decided to try their hand at solar technology. They figured it would just be another project that began and ended in the classroom. But Roszko’s wife Ashley, a graduate student in Community Engagement at the University of Alberta, had a bigger idea.

“I was like, [this project] is so cool; we could use it to teach people about renewable energy and how solar power works,” says Ashley Roszko.

In turn, the trio began a year-long interdisciplinary project teaching people how to build personal solar units, which they called a Sun-In-A-Box, with the broader goal of driving grassroots engagement with solar technologies.

“There were kids working with seniors … someone holding a screwdriver while someone else screwed in a panel. It was just so neat.”

Practically speaking, a Sun-In-A-Box is a beefed-up solar-powered charger. The wooden frame, about the size of a shoebox, contains a battery pack, a pivoting solar panel and a small computer that can be programmed for various tasks. The box’s 12-volt rechargeable battery can charge or power anything that plugs into a USB port.

“It was designed to support itself for two days without any sun,” said Olson, one of the two electrical engineering students who designed the box.

That means it can charge about five phones before it needs a new dose of sunlight. In addition, with a few modifications, the wooden box can be rugged and weather proof, and can be used camping, or left outside for longer stretches to harness the sun’s energy for daily use.


Sounds cool, and maybe you want one of your own, right? But you can’t buy a Sun-In-A-Box. You have to build it. That’s the point.

The venture was created as an education project – a way to get kids and community members excited about solar energy, and to scale the power of the sun down to something people can understand and use themselves.

Once the two engineers had developed and finalized the unit specs – the parts cost about $350 and can be found at Canadian Tire, Home Depot, any electronics shop, or just lying around your house – Ashley kicked her community engagement skills into action. The trio gave presentations to elementary schools and community groups in the Edmonton area, showing participants how the Sun-In-A-Box works. In July, thanks to the support of EcoCity Edmonton, they put on a workshop through the Alberta Green Economy Network with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, Relay Education and the Riverdale Community to teach people how to build a Sun-In-A-Box.

Ashley Roszko said the workshop participants’ diversity and cooperation was inspiring.

“There were kids working with seniors … someone holding a screwdriver while someone else screwed in a panel,” she said. “It was just so neat.”


From an engineering perspective, Olson said it was interesting to work with an interdisciplinary team, sharing solar technology with people who aren’t technical, and helping them make it a reality.

“It’s easy to get siloed and you don’t see what’s on the other side of the fence,” he said. “As engineers, we didn’t really consider the community engagement aspect.”

Being able to share their knowledge and passion with others who haven’t thought much about renewable energy was an exciting opportunity, Ashley Roszko said, especially when it came to hearing people’s ideas for what to do with a Sun-In-A-Box. Beyond charging phones, people suggested hooking up a wildlife camera, or powering a pump to use the water from a rain barrel or plugging in a soil sensor.

“[It was cool to see] what sustainability looks like to them when they realized that they could actually build their own,” she said.

Equally important, she added, is that there isn’t just one way to make a Sun-In-A-Box.

“We’re trying to show people something you can do, but you don’t have to do it exactly as we did,” she said, pointing out there are plenty of improvements people can make. Indeed, the project is open-source, and they are continuing to update documents and directions online, so that people can make their own suggestions and customizations.

“That’s one of the areas we hope it will continue to grow,” she said.

Detailed instructions on how to build your own Sun-In-A-Box can be found here.

For more information on how to undertake your own education project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.

Gener8ting Environmental Leaders

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Gener8ting Environmental Leaders

Each year, Inside Education hosts its flagship environmental education event at the lodge in beautiful Kananaskis Country for one reason – to “inspire students.”

“At the Gener8 Youth Energy and Climate Summit, we have students from all over Alberta learning with and from experts on energy and climate change. At the end they will go back to their schools and communities and effect change,” says Steve McIsaac, executive director of Inside Education.

In the “Energy Dialogues” session, 16 experts in solar, wind, oil and gas, parks, air quality and climate change came together. Students got to pick seven tables they would visit to learn from and pick the brains of the experts in 10-minute sessions. It’s high-energy and very intense for both presenters and students.

Part of the take-away is for students to undertake an action when they go home.

“While we do provide some parameters, it’s student-directed and student-driven. Afterwards, students have done everything from upgrading toilets in their school’s staff room, to conducting stream bank rehabilitation after the 2013 floods, to installing solar panels on their school rooftops,” says McIsaac.

Former Medicine Hat High School student Jasveen Brar’s experience at Gener8 inspired her to study sustainability when she enrolled at Dalhousie University. She got involved with Students on Ice studying climate change in the Arctic and Antarctic and a few months ago took a group of students to the United Nations in a follow-up project. “It wasn’t until I visited Antarctica that I realized I knew so little about how the world works, and the real impact that we, humans are having on the planet,” Brar says.

“In 2016 we directly connected, in classrooms and field trips, with 23,000 young people, ranging from Grade 4 to Grade 12. Two hundred teachers participated in our teacher professional development programs and 500 students participated in our youth summits,” says McIsaac.

Inside Education was founded by McIsaac’s mentor Jim Martin in 1985. Martin was a teacher and principal in Indigenous communities. “He believed in taking the students outside,” says McIsaac. “He wanted to provide them with learning experiences… that will be life changing.”

In professional development programs Inside Education takes teachers to wind farms, the oil sands and elsewhere to provide hands-on experience. Other Inside Education student alumni got involved with the Centre for Global Education. That’s the same program where students wrote a white paper that was delivered at the Paris Climate Change Summit by Premier Rachael Notley. More recently, students prepared a white paper on climate change education and the programs schools can undertake to take action on Climate Change.

McIsaac says one of the differences in students these days is they don’t want to wait until they graduate to make a difference – they are taking action now.

Read the full story on Green Energy Futures here

For more information on how to undertake your own education project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.

Even Students are Getting Solar Right

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Even Students are Getting Solar Right

Tucked within Cochrane High School in Cochrane about a half-hour west of Calgary is the – the Sustainable Development Committee, a small volunteer club. Behind the bland name is an overachieving group of students that has raised more than $149,000 and built more than half a dozen renewable energy projects.

Teachers Stephanie Bennett and Earl Binder helped start the group in 2004. Since then, the committee has been responsible for installing three solar PV projects on the school roof, a micro-wind turbine, waste heat recovery and a solar thermal hot water system, and those are just the energy generation-related projects. They’ve installed a school garden fed with rainwater from the roof, LED lights, waterless urinals, dual flush toilets, motion activated lights, a solar-powered energy efficient scoreboard and have done a ton of outreach in the community and nearby schools.

Jay Heule is a Cochrane High grad and former sustainable development committee member. He’s now in his second year of engineering at the University of Calgary.

“Growing up in Cochrane with a bit more of a redneck kind of feeling in town it was a different outlook on how we could approach the environment with solutions for problems that we’re facing here in the 21st century,” he says.

It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for the sustainable development committee. When they decided to build a five-kilowatt, 18-metre high wind turbine on school property a vocal group of neighbours responded.

“There was a really loud group, it was called, ‘The No Turbines in Town Coalition,’ and they were in the newspaper, they were in the media and we really didn’t want to play that game so we just said, “Alright, we’ll go through the school board, we’ll jump through all the extra hoops,” says Adam Sibbald, another sustainable development committee alumni.

The students turned their attention from fundraising and project development to engaging in real-life politics. It’s a similar challenge renewable energy proponents have faced in other places – angry residents who don’t want development in their backyard and a leery local government.

They held three community consultation meetings learning how to do good public consultation after “getting shellacked” at the first one. The students applied to the town of Cochrane, which put the brakes on the project but decided it needed a clear framework to deal with energy projects in town.

While the student group ultimately failed in their effort to erect the turbine, the push from the students led the town of Cochrane to create its renewable energy framework. Any future renewable energy projects (including small wind) have a much clearer expectation of what they need to do in order to be approved.

Perhaps the most important part is on the human development side. The experience they’re getting in fundraising, communications, working as a team and with regulatory bodies is invaluable as they go to post-secondary and join the workforce.

Read the full story Green Energy Futures here

For more information on how to undertake your own renewables project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.