By Ariel Zhang
I can't believe that it's almost a week since camp ended! It has been an amazing experience for both participants and staff. Here is a breakdown of what we did each day and the lessons learnt.
Introductions to camp, some anxious feelings and a haida welcome circle. We also hiked the area around our campsite.
The most classroom-intensive day of the week; we learned about systems thinking, the (broad) definition of sustainability, and helped the students find why they are passionate. In between the workshops, we hiked to the Cleveland dam for some fresh air!
Alumni day! We started the day off with an alumni panel, moderated by two of our students. Next, students had a chance to talk about their projects with alumni and community partners in the proaction cafe.
We toured the Lions Gate waste water treatment plant to get a look at what happens when we flush. It's important to be aware of the systems in place that help us sustainabily manage our waste! Next we went to Grant narrows to start our canoe journey!
We camped the night and in the morning we hiked to a nearby waterfall for a quick dip! That night we took our canoes out onto the water to watch the Perseid meteor shower
We paddled out to colony farm, where we had our final dinner together. There were alot of pictures, hugs and appreciations given out. Thankfully it's not goodbye forever, since our first fall class is in less than three weeks.
Camp has shown me the passion and the power of youth, and has given me hope for our generation. The waterfall and the night sky has reminded me the importance of protecting the land we call home.
I am also astounded by all of the journal entries written by the students, each one is so thoughtful and poetic. Here's an excerpt from one of our students Victoria Teo : "With the millions of shattered silver-grey clam shells beneath my feet, I can't help but recognise that each and everyone one of them had once held life. The perfectness of this environment is unmistakably beautiful. The complete balance of nature is unimaginable. However, we humans have altered that balance. We, the selfish, have wanted too much and given back too little. We dare to ask, 'Will it hurt much if I killed this one organism? If I threw this into the sea?' Guilt, an emotion felt by many, is rarely associated with the world around us. The scars the humans have carved into the earth are unforgiving and tragic. Yet we turn a blind eye. 'I didn't do that" 'It wasn't me.' 'How is that even possible?' But it is. It's you and I. It's all of us." -- Sit Spot at the beach at the Water Treatment Plant
By Ariel Zhang
Wow! It's less than a week before the start of MVST 2016, and the team couldn't be more excited! It's just crazy how time flies by! Everyone in the Youth4action team has been working hard to make the camp possible. From scanning countless student forms, to packing up the van, to coordinating alumni day, it's been so busy these last few months leading up to camp. Despite some hiccups along the way, we know that in the camp will be a rewarding experience, for both the students and for us.
Ariel, one of the junior facilitators has been coordinating the social media says that she's most excited to see the participants grow at the camp and over the next few months. She's not looking foward to the mosquitos that will undoubtidly swarm her when they are camping...
Aaron the other junior facillitator, says he's most excited for alumni day. It's a great oppourtunity for participants and alumni of MVST to network and learn from each other. Both Ariel and Aaron have been planning and coordinating alumni day for several months now, and it'll be great to see how the day turns out. Aaron also says that he's not looking foward to his face turning to a tomato from the sunburns...
Hopefully our participants are as excited as we are for this year's MVST!
Are you wondering what students get out of being a part of the Metro Vancouver Sustainability Toolbox? Check out these top 8 reasons to apply and what past participants had to say about their experience!
1. Reconnect with nature and spend time learning outside
"I fell in love with the place, spending time outside… the cool stream, the icy waterfall, the starry sky, free from light pollution… so secluded, so perfect!"
2. Make long-lasting friendships with like-minded youth leaders from across Metro Vancouver
"I am grateful for all of the wonderfully amazing people I have met. MVST has given me lifelong friends that I can rely on."
3. Explore the concept of sustainability, systems thinking and different topics such as waste, water and food through field experiences in the Metro Vancouver area
"I learned what sustainability is and how it relates to what we are trying to accomplish. Sustainability is taking what you need while still leaving resources for future generations to survive and thrive. Everything is related in a complex, interconnected web of the earth and us. The environment, animals, food, water, all of our basic needs are branches under this sustainability umbrella."
4. Work on an action project or start your own initiative to have a positive impact on your school community
"I listen to my peers and hear great school sustainability successes. Now when I look at my school, instead of seeing failure, I see opportunity for positive change to happen.. and for me to play a role as a leader to make that change happen."
5. Gain outdoor skills and experiences like paddling and camping
"The canoe trip was so much more than paddle strokes… it was intentional curriculum and taught leadership and teamwork… instead of telling us what these skills are and giving us examples, we experienced it and take away the learning to apply it to the world."
6. Gain confidence and develop important skills like leadership and team work skills.
"I learned that I have the capability to be a leader when I am encouraged by a group of like-minded peers. Also I learned that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses; it's important to hone those skills and make them beneficial to the team. MVST taught me that working together makes big changes happen and how we are able to tighten those bonds to form a strong team."
7. Try new things and step outside of your comfort zone
"A lot of times I've managed to surprise myself with what I was able to accomplish, and I would have never known those capabilities unless I had taken on those challenges despite the doubts.
I believe I was able to recognize an area of improvement where I could play a role in the larger movement of environmental sustainability in Metro Vancouver, and had some success in bridging the gaps between some of the circles involved in environmental sustainability."
8. Join a supportive network of fellow passionate peers and adult-allies working in the field, and become a part of the Youth4Action and MVST network for life!
"I am grateful for meeting so many wonderful and amazing people. My circle expanded so much and I was able to bond with MVST participants and leadership team; my network grew and I am so happy that these people came into my life."
Still have questions about MVST? Get in touch with us at [email protected]. Applications are due on May 10, 2016 and more info can be found on this page:
June 6th dawned bright and warm, the sliver of sun that peeked over the horizon unimpeded by clouds. It was the morning of ecoFEST 2015, a youth environmental festival- the planning of which had dominated my every waking morning for the past eight months.
In grade 9, I was lucky enough to discover my passion in environmentalism. By grade 10, I realized that not everyone had the opportunities and lucky breaks that had led me to that discovery. That revelation prompted me to found ecoFEST Canada as a festival that would provide a day for the youth of MetroVancouver to learn about all the incredible environmental volunteer opportunities in the Lower Mainland and connect with other youth leaders. This year, the third year of the festival, definitely allowed us to get closer to that goal than ever before.
Putting on a large-scale event like this is not something that can be done alone- teaming up with others not only helps mitigate the weight of the responsibilities but also provides opportunities to bounce ideas off each other and find new areas for growth. Our executive team expanded exponentially this year, not to mention the dozens of volunteers that helped tirelessly on the day of the festival and the days leading up to it. It's easy to get tired and want to quit when the planning process stretches so long, and that's another way a team makes all the difference- surrounding myself with equally passionate people inspired me to stay motivated and keep going many times.
Our first step in planning ecoFEST 2015 was, and will be probably for every year of the festival, obtaining funds. This year, we were so humbled to receive a grant from the City of New Westminster, not only enabling us to put on the festival, but to run workshops throughout the year harnessing skills like art, music and cooking to enhance envionrmental leadership (For more information on upcoming workshops, see http://ecofestcanada.org/ ). This grant allowed us a lot of freedom to experiment and expand our ideas.
Next came location scouting- there are so many wonderful public spaces around MetroVancouver. This year, we decided to use the New Westminster Quay Boardwalk. It's easily accessible by transit, brings in a lot of daily traffic and has many restaurants and amenities close by. It also has a ready supply of power and available water sources. It also happens to be right on the stunning Fraser River!
Once our location was set, one of the hardest parts of planning began- choosing a date. We usually hold the festival in May, but this year due to so many conflicts and awesome events held nearby, we actually had to change the day twice, eventually settling on June 6th. In the end, it worked out for the best: both of the other dates had been gray and rainy! With those two pieces of crucial information, we could begin contacting organizations to present. In past years, we found we got a much better response by sending out individual emails to each organization- which means this year, we send out almost 50 emails asking organizations to join us! For both volunteers and organizations, we used online forms to consolidate information in an easy-access file.
One of my favourite parts of ecoFEST planning is choosing the bands! With our grant, we had the flexibility to enlist some professional bands, one of which I had seen in concert a few years before and absolutely loved. I also discovered some other incredible local bands by trolling the internet and asking around. Clearly the youth in our city are pretty talented, because two of our bands were made up of young artists and a few were friends of mine! In the end, our line-up was Luke Wallace (https://lukewallace.bandcamp.com/) as an opener, then the Wishbone (https://www.facebook.com/TheWishboneMusic?fref=nf), Dysfunktional (http://dysfunk.weebly.com/), and finally Rococode (http://rococode.com/).
Next up was finding some speakers to share their inspiring stories- luckily, after attending many camps and conferences through my high school career I'd gotten to know some pretty amazing people, and some of them were willing to come out and speak. Emily Mittertreiner, Aliya Dossa and Jacqueline Shen definitely made some people stop and think.
Advertising is also a big factor in ensuring the success of an event. We plugged it on social media (to the point where several of my friends jokingly threatened to block me… oops), talked to local newspapers, did a spot on Shaw TV and were mentioned on CBC Radio. There are so many outlets to reach people these days! However, an important one not to forget is word of mouth- not only did simply talking to people get them interested in the festival, it also led me to make some new friends.
Most of the stress of ecoFEST 2015 came from the little details- ensuring we rented enough tents, last minute drop-outs, transportation issues, sound equipment struggles. Those are the parts that we file under 'administration' and tend to procrastinate on, but really, they can make or break an event. We faced many challenges like that this year, but in the end, we managed to pull through for a great day.
The final count came to almost 20 booths, including one with live owls and hawks (!!!!!!), 3 speakers, 4 bands, 21 volunteers, masses of attendees and 5 hours of sunshine, music, art and celebrating the planet.
I graduated high school this year and will be heading off to Victoria in September. So the time has come for me to hand the reins off to: Ana Mramor and Jordan Whittaker. As much as ecoFEST Canada probably made my high school experience exponentially more stressful and hectic, I wouldn't change it for the world. And who knows? Maybe Vancouver Island will have their very own ecoFEST 2016!
(Papa Dave's Pizza donated pizza for all of us!!! In compostable boxes I might add)
To check out our workshops and sign up for one that interests you, or find out more about our festival, visit http://ecofestcanada.org/ and follow us on Twitter at @ecofestnews.
Albert Einstein, one of the greatest problem solvers in modern history, once stated that, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” Although all quotes are open to individual perception, I recognize this quote as addressing the fact that we need to continue to learn, and develop our own minds and views in order to solve the problems that we encounter in our lives. Our minds must evolve within the very process of solving problems.
Every year, it becomes increasingly clear the environment is one of the principal issues that we face in our modern world. More specifically, we have adopted inadequate sustainability practices. We are facing a major problem, which will only continue to grow unless we are open to growing and learning ourselves.
On Saturday, January 24, 2015, a sizable group of people, including myself, attended the Think & Eat Green @ School Institute, an opportunity to develop our understanding and knowledge on sustainability and its direct relationship with eating. Through this program, we were able to learn about various factors pertaining to sustainability, contributing to us being able to become better leaders, and problem-solvers in this crucial field.
Upon arrival at David Thompson Secondary School, the location of our learning adventure, we were immediately met with many like-minded individuals, who shared common concerns, and were all keen to make a difference. There were people from all different backgrounds, all with their own areas where they wanted to make a difference. Coming from a high school, I have a clear target and specific goals, but I found it both exciting and enriching to meet people who had their own unique target areas and goals.
Throughout the day, I was exposed to a wealth of information, and hands-on experiences that helped me better understand the issues that we face, but more importantly, some ways that we can begin to solve them.
From the moment the program began, beginning with several brief speeches, I was moved by the commitment the organizers and presenters had. Rarely do we see people possess such passion and knowledge over an issue. The entire experience at the Institute was led by leaders and motivators, who had a significant impact on myself, and encouraged all present to become leaders themselves.
Since I was very young -- maybe four or five years old -- I have loved to cook. Therefore I was delighted that I would have an opportunity to cook during the Institute. The cooking experience greatly contributed, and enriched the other topics that we learned about. Additionally, it gave us all a chance to meet and bond, sharing our views, and what is important to us. Making these connections helped renew my belief in humanity, and realize that we are not alone in our quest to make a difference.
After a delicious and nourishing lunch, we continued on to part two of our learning experience. For my group, our second session involved the production of food, composting, and the food cycle. We learned a great deal from this part of the program, where we were split into groups, and sent off on a rotation, visiting various experts, each immensely knowledgeable in their given area. Once again, it was very moving to see such passion and knowledge, and to have that knowledge so readily available.
We learned about topics ranging from all parts of the food cycle, which was something that I did not have a great amount of knowledge about previously. It was fascinating to learn about so much information in such great depth. I learned so much from this part of the Institute, and genuinely felt like I was beginning to understand with far greater insight what sustainability means, and how we can be sustainable.
The entire experience was very hands-on, while also containing many auditory and visual components, which made it easy to appeal to all types of learners. Additionally, the hands-on components allowed us to experience the sustainability process ourselves, making it far more easy to take away information, and apply it to our own lives.
After a long, but enriching day, the first day of the Institute came to a close with reflections. This was a time where we were able to think about how we can apply the valuable learning to our own lives. Reflecting can often be a difficult and stressful experience, but now, just a little while after the experience, I feel as though I can reflect very easily. I now fully appreciate how the experience will continually impact me. I now understand that every additional thing that I have learned and will learn pertaining to sustainability will contribute to my ability to solve sustainability issues in the future. I am now thrilled to be taking part the second part of the Institute, where I will learn more, and further hone my ability to play my part in solving one of the greatest crises of our time.
Just two years ago when I attended the Global Rewind, I was in grade 7 pretending to be in grade 8 (sorry!) and tagged along with my older brother to the event. At that point, I barely knew anything about sustainability, but I was excited as I entered Science World to the Global Rewind.
I remember being at the world cafe discussion groups and meeting all kinds of different people - people from organizations, different sustainability groups, and just so many students and adults passionate and connected to the environment.
The Global Rewind is what got me into sustainability; I left the event with information of many opportunities I had just learned about. One of them was "Catching the Spirit" (CTS), and after I attended a CTS camp, I was even more passionate about the environment and also found out about the Metro Vancouver Sustainability Toolbox (MVST) course, which further extended my connection with sustainability!
I would definitely encourage participating in the Global Rewind - whether you are completely new to sustainability, or already a part of environmental groups - get ready to meet new people, learn more, and have fun! This year's event will be taking place on the evening of May 8th, 2015 at Science World. Check back for more details soon!
"Do you know that based on a wide range of sources, the green elements of BC's economy are growing faster than the province's economy as a whole and are expected to continue to do so over the next decade? This is important information as you start your career journey; knowing what careers will be in demand when you graduate is a key to success."
On Saturday February the 7th, instead of staying home or spending time with friends, I did something different. I took a leap into investing in my future and sky-trained down to Burnaby to attend the 2015 Green Collars Futures Career Conference. I arrived slightly apprehensive, as I did not know anyone else who had signed up for the conference nor was I entirely sure what to expect for the course of the day. As it turned out, however, I had no need to be nervous. Within moments of my arrival, I bumped into a group of peers I had met the previous week at the Zero Waste and Sustainable Schools Leadership Clinic. Moving together into the lobby, we were met with over 150 other expectant youths, all of whom had shown up for similar reason as us. We were all drawn to the environment in some way and desired the knowledge to be able to incorporate that interest into our future careers.
As we all sat down for the opening statements and the first Keynote speaker (Professor of Marine Ecology, Dr. Isabella Côté), I pondered which tables I would pick to visit for the rest of the day. The aim of the Green Collars Futures Career Conference was to expose high school students to possible future careers that incorporate green initiatives as well as to open students' eyes to the vast set of opportunities and paths we each have ahead of us. To do this, twenty-seven different mentors from all reaches of the community gathered together to share their career journeys with us and to explain how they began excelling in the green economy. Each student was to pick five different mentors, whom they would be given to opportunity to talk to and learn from throughout the five cycles of the day.
Over the course of the day, I visited with an Environmental Law Student, a Marketing Coordinator, an Environmental Economist, a Sustainability Project Manager and a Structural Engineer. Each and every one gave me insights into careers I had either never even considered before, or never knew could have an environmental side. As the day ended, I was left with maybe more questions than I had received answers to; however, my head was filled to the brim with thoughts and ideas about what I could do in the future and how I might actually be able to incorporate my passion for the environment and sustainability into whatever career I find myself leading in the future.
As a youth on the brink of taking the next step towards independence and adulthood, deciding a career path or even simply which faculty to apply for in university or college is often one of the most stressful decisions made during this period of life. I know it is personally something that weighs heavily on my mind. However, events such as the Green Collars Futures Career Conference and talking one-on-one with mentors who have faced the same situation, make fears seem not only less overwhelming but inspire me towards looking forward to all the opportunities stretched out before me.
For more information of this year's conference, check out the footage here.
On Saturday, February 7th, 2015, I was part of an amazing Zero Waste and Sustainable Schools Leadership Clinic. Throughout this day-long event , I connected with sustainability-oriented youth from all over Metro Vancouver to discover what happens to waste from their homes, schools and businesses. Despite the rain, two dozen youth gathered together to hear more about sustainable waste!
Youth engaging in discussion at the Waste Transfer Station
During this empowering experience, both the leadership team and the participants explored strategies for promoting waste reduction through art, film, and experiential learning. The ETSAW Rangers -- also known as the the team planning the leadership clinic, and which I had the pleasure of being on -- had originally met at the Metro Vancouver Sustainability Toolbox. Through the camp component of the course, we were able to connect and bond with youth from almost every district in Metro Vancouver and hear about creative initiatives that their schools had previously been working on. The camp allowed all of us to create a leadership clinic that focuses around a particular theme we were interested in. Through meeting my amazing peers, we decided to focus around waste management as we saw the impacts of waste created by our community and we felt empowered to make a difference. By raising awareness of the growing problem of waste, we hope the participants will be able to educate their communities.
After 6 months of hard work, we managed to plan an amazing event to reach out to other students in the community. Our first stop during the day was the Vancouver Waste Transfer Station. Through an interactive tour, we understood a bit more about how Vancouver manages waste; we became more educated through a behind-the-scenes look into the "pit". What they referred to as the "pit" was a large slanted human-made pit covered in garbage! A garbage tractor ran up and down, crushing all the garbage—including a couch—reducing it to a flat layer which then goes to the landfill in garbage trucks.
A photograph of a behind-the-scenes look at the Waste Transfer Station
The educational experience didn't end there! After touring the Waste Transfer Station, we headed off the Subway for a lovely lunch, and then headed upstairs to a facility for the rest of the day. We were thankful enough to listen to Tomas Lang, founder of Green Events and former MVST alumni, and Aaron Leung, Chair of the VSB Sustainability Conference 2014, speak about their journeys in sustainability and how we can motivate our peers to join our cause! It was so inspiring to listen to youth our age make a huge difference in their communities. During this time a Vancouver photographer Michael JP Hall joined us for a presentation about his amazing artwork surrounding waste—from creating dresses to producing a wonderful masterpiece that gets to the heart of our current waste pollution situation.
Michael JP Hall with the ETSAW Rangers group: (left to right) Richard Tian, Michael JP Hall, Alice Xu, Amara Fan, Sylvia Zhang, Sylvester Zhang, and Peter Fang
To further show how we can co-exist with waste, we split off into groups and were presented with a challenge—how can we turn waste into a masterpiece like Michael Hall's artwork?
Creative minds at work at the Leadership Clinic
It was an amazing experience both planning and participating in the Leadership Clinic! I'm so glad that Metro Vancouver introduced me to this once in a lifetime chance of connecting with such wonderful youth, who came despite the rain and care to make a difference with waste! I could not have asked for a better way to spend my Saturday!
It was a full and exciting day in Metro Vancouver as Grade 9s romped through the region accompanying their parents to work. During Bring Your Kid to Work Day, a select group of lucky youth were able to get to know their own parents’ careers and also the wide range of other careers and facilities that Metro Vancouver has to offer.
To start off the day, each youth set off with their parents to see and learn about their workplaces. Then, at 11, all the Grade 9’s and their parents gathered at the MetroVancouver head office in Burnaby to start the next activity. First, they got a warm welcome from Carol Mason, Chief Administrative Officer of Metro Vancouver. It was remarkable to have such a busy woman take time out of her day to speak with the 9th graders. One 9th grader, Addyson Danton, wrote about Carol’s welcome fondly: “Carol’s speech was very moving; I love how she shared her personal career story and encouraged us to follow our dreams and life goals.” At the head office, parents and children also had to chance to find their own houses and schools on a regional map, write about the best part of their day so far, and connect with others participating in Bring Your Kid to Work Day.
9th graders at MetroVancouver’s head office
Later, two groups were formed. One headed to the Capilano Seymour Filtration Plant and the other to the Capilano Reservoir. At the Filtration Plant, the grade 9’s were greeted by a plant operator who demonstrated how the water was filtered. Afterwards they donned hard hats and reflective vests and began their tour of the plant. During the tour, they were introduced to laboratory technicians and other workers in the plant who described their careers and starting wages.
Grade 9s at Capilano Seymour Filtration Plant
(Photo by grade 9, Addyson Danton)
At Capilano Reservoir, the second group of participants was given an outdoor tour. They were welcomed by a reservoir security guard who described the many benefits of his career (including a three day work week!). They were then joined by a park interpreter who engaged them in a game that introduced them to many more of Metro Vancouver’s careers. After this, the group romped through Capilano Park’s beautiful old growth forest. Eventually they came to a platform overlooking the Capilano River where they learned about the impacts the reservoir has on salmon.
at Capilano Reservoir
The day ended with the two groups converging at Camp Capilano. There, they sat by a blazing campfire with hot chocolate and Smores in hand, and exchanged stories of their adventures. It was definitely a memorable day for both the grade 9’s and their parents.
Metro Vancouver’s Bring Your Kid to Work Day was planned and facilitated by the Education and Learning team in MetroVancouver. This team plays a vital role in the facilitation of programs that promote sustainability in schools and all aspects of a youth life. This program was clearly a great success!
Day 1, Camp Capilano, North Vancouver. The car door closed behind me with a slam. Hoisting my backpack back up onto my shoulder, I began the stroll toward the quaint, eccentric little lodge up ahead that would be my temporary home over the upcoming 10 days. It seemed to be oddly nestled among the surrounding trees, towering firs and pines, yet its simultaneous sense of welcoming coziness beckoned me in. I wondered what I would find there and what I was soon to experience.
Having grown up as a homeschooler on a large property, I’ve developed a keen sense of appreciation for the natural environment. I’ve also been blessed with the opportunity to keep a garden and enjoy local produce throughout my childhood. The ripe, juicy raspberries from our bushes, the crisp lettuce or crunchy kale we would weed and harvest all were reminders of the value and simplicity in growing one’s own food. This perception of the intrinsically enriching side of sustainability, along with a desire to explore new ways to design sustainable communities, were two of the things I brought to the MVST camp.
However, amidst the hustle and bustle of day 1, I started picking up on various acronyms that were bouncing around—BYSN, SSYN, and LEAP, to name a few—that I had never heard of before. Many students were discussing issues arising within their green teams and eco-clubs; others chatted nonchalantly about conferences and leadership opportunities that sounded fascinating, but which hadn’t previously arrived on my radar. I quickly realized that I had a lot to learn! Fascinated, I watched, listened, and began to eagerly enter this new world. Yet behind all this a surreptitious thought nagged at my brain: could it be I was going to go in over my head?
Surely enough, I did, yet it was an immensely exhilarating, enriching, and refreshing dive! Along the way, I was able to realize more the incredible value of what I brought to the table. That week I began a brainstorming process with other students that culminated this past Monday in a proposal for a unique, sustainability-themed conference that will allow students from across the region, homeschooled and high-schooled, to brainstorm together means of advocating for the well-being of their communities.
In diverse friendships arising sometimes in the most unexpected places; in one-on-one’s with leaders who were excited to share (and receive!) insight; in opportunities to heighten my awareness and deepen my appreciation for the beauty in those around me; and in purposeful spaces designed for real learning—“heart-learning,” my mom would say, not “head-learning”—MVST has soared above my expectation and taught me more about myself, about engaging and loving others, and about dedication to a mission than I imagined.