School health in action:

Growing passion and purpose

It all started with students

Students have long been recognized as change-makers in school health—their ideas, voices, and talents are catalysts for remarkable shifts. Perhaps no one knows this better than Steve Schultz, Teacher Advisor for EcoVision at École Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School (LCHS) in central Alberta. 

Back in 2006, students came to Mr. Schultz with a proposal to get their school off the power grid. Within a week, they'd formed a club, created a vision statement, and kick-started a plan to fundraise for solar panels. Their impressive efforts inspired what is now known as EcoVision, a student-led club renowned for its actions to improve the environment, education, and the community.

"Action is an understatement. Mr. Schultz and EcoVision students, for more than a decade, have dared to dream of different ways to improve their environment and their community...These students develop a sense of ownership over their world and because of that, our world is so much better for it." — Luci Henry, Chair, Wolf Creek Public Schools 

Action on sustainable school food

EcoVision typically runs on a three-year cycle. In year one, students come up with ideas for action, reach consensus on a project, and start their research. In year two, they work on getting buy-in and approvals, then move to grant-writing and fundraising. Year three is focused on carrying out planned activities and working with community partners to ensure they're sustained.

One of EcoVision's major goals is to grow all of the produce needed for the LCHS Foods courses and cafeteria, and to use leftovers to support local community organizations. Some of the key projects students have taken on include:

  • Building a state-of-the-art greenhouse to support sustainable school food production
  • Setting up outdoor garden plots, and maintaining them with the support of community volunteers
  • Starting a beekeeping program
  • Planting fruit trees for an edible orchard
  • Opening a rooftop garden and goat sanctuary
  • Partnering with Indigenous Elders to design a garden with traditional plants for medicine, food, and attracting pollinators

EcoVision is now able to produce a large portion of the cafeteria's fresh organic food. The outdoor gardens grow vegetables (lettuce, carrots, cucumber, zucchini, squash, and corn), garlic, and berries. The greenhouse produces peppers, lemons, avocado, pineapples, banana trees, fig trees, and herbs. 

Strength in partnerships

EcoVision thrives with the support of community. Many of its projects are maintained by Friends of Gardens and Goats (FOGG), a local network of LCHS students, alumni, families, and other community volunteers. FOGG members take on tasks that students can't do over the summer break, like caring for garden beds and herbs, watering fruit trees, and maintaining the greenhouse. In return, they share in the harvest.

EcoVision students also run an online store and sell their products at local markets and restaurants. They use the proceeds from sales of honey, seeds, herbs, plants and other items grown at LCHS or by local producers to fund their projects. They're also known for donating money they've raised to the local food bank, along with leftover produce.

Words of wisdom and inspiration 

EcoVision has done so much over the years. Over time, the club has become a model for student-led action that's incredibly ambitious, coordinated and effective. For schools looking to start or strengthen their sustainable food efforts, Mr. Schultz offers this advice:

  • Go where the students lead and follow their passions. Keep the projects student-owned and student-operated.
  • Collaborate with your local community and reach out to folks who know what they're doing. Learn from the ideas, designs, and best practices others have put into action.
  • Focus on projects that are low maintenance and sustainable. Learn about permaculture practices that work with nature such as companion planting, mulching and drip irrigation.
  • Build champions at the school board and in the community. When students bring well-researched ideas and show financial sustainability, it's hard for adults to turn them down.

Looking to the future, EcoVision is focused on building food security. Students are actively researching, planning, and advocating for a universal school food program at LCHS. They're also in the early stages of setting up a food rescue program with community partners, figuring out how to distribute safe and edible fresh food that might otherwise go to waste.

Feeling inspired?

For more information and tips to take action, go to:

CMS Shortcuts
 Edit Page
 Edit in CMS