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.