School powers LED message board with wind turbine

Oak Lake Community School turns need for community and school messaging 
into a teachable moment about renewable energy

The new electronic messaging board at Oak Lake Community School is just part of the school’s latest commitment to going green.

The sign, which uses energy-saving LED light bulbs, will not only reduce the need to send home paper notices, but is powered by a small wind turbine.

That makes it a tool for teaching students about renewable energy, said principal Brenda Masson.

“They’re trying to not only learn about the environment and how they can make a difference by looking after this one planet Earth that we all live on, but they are trying also to get their messages out to the community,” said Masson, adding the latest message from students in Grades 6 and 7 is “drive less, walk more.”

The sign is the latest in a long series of initiatives over the past three years that earned the school a $3,000 national “Green Schools, Green Futures” award from TreeCanada, an organization that promotes planting of trees in urban environments.

The wind turbine was won in a contest organized by Evolve Green, with grants and community donations paying for the sign and installation. It’s part of the school’s “push for paperless” initiative, which also encourages parents to sign up for email messaging.

“The community can contact me to get their messages out,” said Masson.

The school’s “Environmental Citizenship” project includes lessons and activities integrated into the curriculum ranging from planting and tending to a school garden as well as apple, saskatoon and plum trees in the schoolyard.

“We actually have apples on our apple tree this year,” she said. “The kids will get to see where those fruits and vegetables come from.”

Tomatoes, peppers and carrots grown in the garden are used to make salsa and served once a month in the breakfast snack program.

One issue they face is the fact that the summer break means that someone needs to periodically weed, water and harvest the garden during summer break. Last year, an “Eco-Warriors” program, sponsored by Manitoba Youth and Justice, saw students receive an honorarium for helping tend a community flower garden and for activities such as building composting bins.

This summer, students will help care for a community vegetable garden to learn how to grow, cook, and preserve food.

Schools use a lot of fossil energy, especially in rural areas, said Masson. The big yellow buses, for example, burn oceans of diesel every year bringing kids to and from school.

“We’re trying to be a caring school, and eco-education is just one piece of that,” said Masson. “I think kids are becoming more aware that we only have one planet Earth and everybody needs to do their part to take care of it.”

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