A shining example of sustainability:
The Career and Technology Centre at Lord Shaughnessy High School
CaGBC’s Greenest School in Canada 2016

First place:
Career and Technology Centre at
Lord Shaughnessy High School in Calgary, AB

Second place:
Argyle Alternative High School in Winnipeg, MB

Third place:
Reynolds Secondary School in Victoria, BC

Photo of People Gardening

In their own words, the Energy and Environmental Innovation program of the Career and Technology Centre at Lord Shaughnessy High School is “more than just a high school course” and they’ve proven just that. With innovative teaching strategies and hands-on green learning, teachers and students have set the school apart and shaped themselves into the ‘go-to’ school for environmental education in Calgary.

Weaving sustainability throughout all academic areas

Recognized by schools across Calgary and Alberta as the experts on initiatives and strategies to create greener schools, the Career and Technology Centre at Lord Shaughnessy High School (CTC) has become a hub of high school environmental education.

Their environmental initiatives are focused within an academic program called Energy and Environmental Innovation, but students are encouraged to apply it to every aspect of school life:

  • Students tend gardens and grow greens that are used daily in the Culinary Department.
  • The welding shop builds aluminum frames for living aquaponics walls that the students construct, assemble and sell.
  • The Auto Body Department is investing in green hydroponics systems to improve air quality in their busy shop.
  • Many students travel to study complex topics like watersheds and climate change at the beginning of each semester.
  • The school is piloting a hands-on version of Social Studies that looks at historical and current events through a natural resources lens.
  • They are working on plans to introduce beehives on the school roof for pollination and harvesting purposes.
  • Students are involved in planning school board-wide solar installation strategy as well as air quality improvements.

In addition to these initiatives, the program enables students to tour some of Alberta’s glaciers and rivers to get a sense of the downstream impact that climate change and later travel to survey the impacts of the Alberta oil sands on the land and on First Nations communities. They are also currently working with schools across the province on how to implement climate change education into the curriculum at all levels and multiple subject areas.

Watch now

Have a look inside the Energy and Environmental Innovation program offered at the Career and Technology Centre at Lord Shaughnessy High School.

Students focus on renewable and solar energy

The school’s main focus is renewable energy and presently, students are working on a plan to implement a mass solar installation strategy at the school and across the school board. This project requires students to work with school board officials and develop an economic strategy to invest in mass solar installation.

With their current proposal awaiting approval, this project would see 20 per cent of the Calgary Board of Education’s electricity generated from solar. Students calculated that only 6.6 per cent of the roof space owned by the Calgary Board of Education would need to be covered to implement this strategy, with a payback period of 14 years. Students are working with the Minister of Environment and Education to look at an economic stimulant to further reduce this payback period. If successful and students spurred the investment of 20 per cent electricity coverage, the installation would represent 8MW of electricity thereby doubling the amount of solar currently installed in Alberta at this time.

Health and wellness: top of mind

The CTC founded a Student Wellness Committee that focuses on physical spaces throughout the school. These spaces have been presented to give students relaxing, environmental retreat areas in an effort to reduce anxiety and depression. The committee introduced aquaponic living walls throughout the building; a courtyard garden picnic space; an orchard, berry and vegetable garden; naturally lit indoor seating areas; and a First Nations sacred sage garden. The materials used for the garden are carefully sourced and these choices – whether reclaimed wood tables or carpet made of recycled fishing nets – are explained fully as another educational feature of the garden.

Additionally, several students are working with the Calgary Board of Education to improve the classroom air quality throughout the school and the Board. They are also developing a prototype air quality tester to look at optimal levels of C02 in classrooms, as well as optimal audio conditions to maximize student learning. Their technical suites have state of the art air ventilation systems that ensure the safety of the staff and students – especially in welding and the paint shop in the auto body class.

Instilling strong community partnerships

The students at CTC garner invaluable experience by working with their community. Currently, they are working with the local community, the City of Calgary and Calgary Board of Education on transforming an unused greenspace into a space for urban agriculture, submitting a business plan and lease agreement to get this project off the ground.

Heavily involved in wildlife conservation efforts, the CTC works directly with the Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre on local conservation efforts and construction projects for the Rehabilitation Centre. CTC is also involved with the Alberta Red Cross, working on climate change mitigations and strategies in the wake of the Southern Alberta Flood and the recent wildfires in Fort McMurray.

Green events help inspire nearby schools and the community

The CTC has managed to host multiple green conferences over the past few years, continuing to do so with the belief that by bringing green leaders, designers, entrepreneurs and First Nations, CTC students can gain inspiration.

A few of these events include:

  • They hosted the Green Apple Day of Service in conjunction with the Alberta Green Building Council where Stephen Ritz, from the Green Bronx Machine, met with and presented to the students.
  • Hosted a school board-wide youth conference on sustainability featuring local organizations, entrepreneurs and writers, like Chris Turner.
  • Hosted Robert Grandjambe from Fort Chipewyan to discuss downstream impacts of the oil sands on his traditional way of life as a trapper, who also joined CTC to host REDx Talks – a First Nations version of TED Talks, right in their school.
  • Hosted a speaker series called “Let’s Talk Energy” that focused on major energy issues put forward by the Canadian Museum for Science and Technology. 
  • Hosted the Alberta Minister of Education as well as video-conferenced with Premier Rachel Notley about implementing climate change into the education system.
  • This coming year, students from the CTC will be attending the Living Future Green Building 4 of 5 Conference put on by the International Living Future Institute.
  • On October 7, with the Alberta Council for Environmental Education, they will host a conference called, “Education for Planet Earth”, where they will provide workshops and conversations about how to make the education system more natural.

In addition to all of this, one CTC student campaigned a nation-wide youth paper on Canada’s commitments to climate change that was circulated at the Paris climate talks and received feedback from several dignitaries at various levels of government.

A winning program

The Energy and Environmental Innovation program of Career and Technology Centre at Lord Shaughnessy High School is an inspiration to Canadian schools striving to become greener. Their sustainability practices paired with the community involvement and hands-on experience with complex issues and projects is an encouraging indication of where these prospective green leaders will take sustainability in the future.

Second place: Argyle Alternative High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Argyle Alternative High School scored high marks with the jury with their incorporation of aboriginal culture and teachings, including art and sculpture, as well as strong environmental stewardship and leadership demonstrated by the students. Part of this leadership comes in the form of short documentary videos that the students create and present to a wide verity of audiences in order to share their knowledge and spread sustainability education to others throughout Canada. Argyle students have managed to win high profile contests with their documentaries, including those sponsored by Manitoba Water Conservation, Crazy for Composting, Caring for our Watershed and both the Manitoba and the Canadian Councils for International Cooperation.

The school displayed a great commitment to sustainability exhibited through the school’s waste reduction programs that include the successful water conservation campaign, composting program and community garden. In order to provide a healthy environment for students and teachers, the school undertook extensive renovations that delivered a new and cleaner heating and air system; a new roof; upgraded and safer electrical services; and new learning areas including a library, science lab and art class. Through these renovations and the introduction of indoor plants, Argyle was able to significantly improve the air quality within the school. In addition to these improvements, students and staff take classes in Argyle's outdoor classroom and are able to receive the health and well-being benefits that come with the outdoor environment, such as proper sun exposure, clean air, the presence of plants and trees and exercise during field work. The jury also noted their appreciation for previous acknowledgements, including the Excellence in Sustainability Award and recognition at the United Nations conference.

For more information on how Argyle Alternative is reaching their sustainability goals, watch their submission video: Argyle Alternative High School: A School of Environmental Leaders

Third place: Reynolds Secondary School in Victoria, British Columbia

Reynolds Secondary School was awarded third place by the jury due to the innovative and impressive way they approach sustainability and engage their students and local community. The school embodies ‘green building’ in physical building changes and updates, as well as curriculum. Recognizing that their school building, built in the 1970's, was not designed to deliver environmental health and well-being, the school has extended their learning space to outdoor areas to achieve the health benefits of nature. By reclaiming their inner courtyard, planting both native species gardens and food gardens, and providing numerous picnic tables, this space is now used by students for free time, lunch, and before and after school. The school is also currently planning to create an additional outdoor shelter to use as a classroom space to offer another opportunity to be out in nature as a positive, healthy learning environment.

Another notable initiative is their demonstrated ability to foster a strong ecological culture where students establish leadership roles in environmental sustainability by presenting students with the opportunity to deliver programs that engage their community and their school. These programs and excellent community connections are displayed through their chicken fostering program, monthly recycling depot, and "Green It Forward" program. The school’s, commitment to sustainability is also displayed in many other areas including, but certainly not limited to: zero waste recycling (which was piloted by Reynold’s for the entire Victoria School District #61, then adopted); food garden that partially supplies produce for a weekly salad bar program for staff and students; and low flush toilets and lighting controls.