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Westwood's Green Initiative Club

Westwood's Green Initiative Club

Doug Nicholls, Superintendent, FMPSD, (first from left standing) is a frequent visitor to the Green Initiative Club, seen here with the team. Johnny Dulku is first from left sitting in the front.Doug Nicholls, Superintendent, FMPSD, (first from left standing) is a frequent visitor to the Green Initiative Club, seen here with the team. Johnny Dulku is first from left sitting in the front.

They work on this project after-school, over the weekend, including long weekends, and they work with passion and diligence. Meet Westwood Community High School’s Green Initiative Club students. These young people are making a difference daily when it comes to the environment, their school, and their community.

Started in 2012 by Johnny Dulku, Westwood’s Chemistry and Physics Teacher, and Project Facilitator for the Green Initiative Club, and eight students, Green Initiative has a goal to show our region how to fight climate change through carbon-neutral projects led by students. Today, the program has grown to 16 students. And, is a great complement to the Fort McMurray Public District’s priority of environmental stewardship, as well as to the District-wide Green Scene committee.

“Students earn work experience credits through after-school hours, and a Farm to Table foods credit by cooking produce grown on-site at Westwood,” explains Dulku, who has been with Westwood, and the District for over 10 years.

Dulku takes it a step further by documenting the project on Twitter via @WestwoodGI, a practice that has gained the group a lot of recognition locally, and across the province.

“I began to document student work during our second year, to tell the story through Twitter photo posts. The students look forward to seeing their hard work in tweets, and many have started portfolios to showcase their individual contributions to the club's accomplishments. Through posts, we have built strong partnerships with our local community and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Twitter has also helped us to develop ties with environmental student groups in other parts of Alberta, including Calgary, Edmonton, Lacombe and Morinville,” Dulku noted.

Ishita Zaman, a grade 11 student is one of the regulars you see in these posts. This is her second year with the Green Initiative Club. She shared the Club has helped her on many levels.

“I’m learning about nature, and action for environment, as well as how to plant properly. I plan to grow herbs, and am a future pharmacy student planning to go to the U of A,” shared Ishita, 16, who has also applied her Green Initiative Club learnings to science fair projects.

Aditya Shah, also a grade 11 student, added, being in the club surprised him.

“At first I thought it was just planting, but then it became more like helping nature. Plants attract bees. They are a big part of nature. I want my own garden someday. I’ve been with the club for a year now, and have learned about temperatures, rain gardens, and drought tolerant plants.

Dulku has taken the sustainability of the Club a step further, and has been diligent about applying for grants for the Club.

“The BP A+ For Energy program awards a $10,000 grant for an energy education school project. Our club has won three consecutive grants so far, to install solar panels, water bottle filling stations, a dome greenhouse, and a solar heating system for the greenhouse. Green Initiative has also earned $10,000 in grant money from ConocoPhillips, WWF Canada and the Whole Kids Foundation, to build solar-powered rainwater management and watering, outdoor gardens, worm composting and our first greenhouse. Through partnerships with the RMWB, we have planted Learning Gardens, as well as participating in the Green Teen Program to support pollinating bees and study the effectiveness of solar-powered watering,” he explained.

The dome greenhouse is a must-visit, along with the vibrant garden adjacent to it. Both are located behind the school.