Wings of Change in Windermere

by Malkolm Boothroyd

I recently spent a week in Vancouver facilitating climate workshops in Vancouver schools as part of the CYCC’s Wings of Change campaign. I worked with fifteen classes, talking about climate justice and running role play activities where students put themselves in the shoes of the Canadian Government and people from front-line communities in Canada. I started the week thinking I’d be the one doing the educating, and left realizing that the students had taught me just as much as I’d taught them.
I spent most of the week at East Vancouver’s Windermere Secondary, a school that should be the blueprint (or should I say greenprint) for every school that wants to inspire a generation of sustainability champions.
I first thing I noticed was how knowledgeable the students were about climate change. Everyone knew what was up with the Tar Sands, understood the severity of the climate crisis and was aware of how much the Canadian Government was blocking progress on climate change.

Not only did the students know all the problems we were faced ― they also were working on building solutions.

Grade 12 students Kevin Liu and Henry Lau took me on a tour of Windermere’s urban farm during one lunch hour. The farm filled the courtyard in the centre of the school ― a greenhouse surrounded by garden beds and composting facilities. They showed me their massive high temperature composter: a container the size of a dumpster which was capable of decomposing paper cafeteria plates and even meat scraps. The fully composted material was then turned out onto worm-filled garden beds. The students grew potatoes, broccoli, carrots, leeks, garlic, kale and numerous greens and herbs, which go straight to the school cafeteria. In the centre of the farm was an organic greenhouse complete with a hydroponics system powered by goldfish, where water enriched with nitrogenous wastes produced by the fish is pumped through the garden beds, accelerating plant growth. Students at Windermere also run a bike program, maintaining the bicycles and then lending them out to their fellow students for fossil fuel free transport to school and summer use.

Kevin Liu and Henry Lau in Windermere's greenhouse

Every year since 2009 Windermere has hosted a multi-school environmental conference to coincide with the annual climate change conference. BC climate justice organizers and environmental experts Seth Klein, Tria Donaldson, Ben West and Harjap Grewal are speaking at this year’s conference ― talking about climate change and resistance in BC to mega-projects such as the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Students at Windermere are also planning an awesome action during the conference to coincide with the CYCC’s Operation Oil Change.
Many of the students and teachers at Windermere told me about how their school was the pioneer in school sustainability and environmental empowerment, but that other schools in Vancouver were starting to follow Windermere’s lead. Hopefully schools across Canada do the same! Find out more about the Wings of Change campaign here and how you can be part of Operation Oil Change here.


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