First, meet Warren Lake.

He’s an environmental science educator at the school. He’s received international awards, given TED talks on pedagogical approaches to nature education, and published articles and studies on environmental education. Mr. Lake shared that students who graduated his class still talk about our assembly, and a few students chose their university majors inspired by the assembly. Since then, he told me that students have pushed for climate change to be included in the curriculum, and climate change became the main theme for projects for a grade ten science course in Calgary!

Two school-wide initiatives came out of the assembly in Oct 2017.

One. Students created Meatless Mondays in the school cafeteria! They qualified for a $1,000 grant and purchased a grow tower where they cultivate herbs for use in the cafeteria.

Two. Students created a project mapping ice movements from 17th-century whaling logs, which was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award.

During lunchtime, I was treated to a Meatless Monday pasta from the cafeteria and was given a tour of Mr. Lake’s classroom with vertical gardens, rainbow trout aquarium, tortoise house, gecko terrarium, over a hundred plants, microgreen garden, vermicomposting bins, tomato, potato, and various edible plant garden. Mr. Lake took IKEA’s open source design to make a circular garden house that students could sit and read in. He recently won $7,500 from the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation to create a solar park on the school roof. 8 solar panels will function as sunshades and underneath it, students will eat lunch, read, take naps on hammocks, so that they can directly witness the benefits of solar panels.

Mr. Lake takes students on a number of nature trips. They go to mountains, lakes, the Arctic, ocean, islands – as many places as they can, so students can develop memories and appreciation for nature. His TED talk on this is available here.

I have an incredible amount of respect for Mr. Lake, who is one of the most active and effective environmental educators across Canada that I have ever met. His dedication and passion not only transforms the students’ appreciation for nature but their entire lives. His pedagogical approach deserves to be studied and emulated for the upcoming generation of educators.

What’s in a teacher? Whatever you make it to be. You could change a student. A school. A town. A province. A country. The world.