• FTFO

Cool It! in schools engages kids in climate action


Penticton youth concerned about climate change may be receiving some special education from First Things First Okanagan (FTFO) and the BC Sustainable Energy Association (BCSEA).


FTFO is a local non-profit society that promotes awareness of climate change and advocates for climate action. The society presented to city council on Nov. 5 to gain the council’s “emotional and financial support” for the Cool It! Climate Leadership Training program, which has been successfully implemented in middle schools in Summerland and Kelowna.


“The program was developed in 2007 by the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association and has been presented to about 2,700 classes since that time, mostly in the Lower Mainland. It has reached approximately 70,000 students and their families in encouraging them to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Kathleen Davies, a member of FTFO. “The program involves a local educator trained by the BCSEA who connects with the schools that FTFO have contacted and arranged to have their classes involved. The local educator connects with the teachers in advance of going into the schools and presenting a workshop to each of the classes involved. The workshop is motivational, encourages the students with videos, games and quizzes.


“It’s an interactive workshop and each class gets 90 minutes with the educator.”

Davies explained that the trained educator and the class teacher make the program applicable to each class by looking at “their current practices in terms of energy use.” Following the workshop, the students are invited to participate in a four-week challenge at home with their families to reduce their impact through ways identified in the presentation.


“Once the info is collected at the end of the four weeks, it is sent to the BCSEA who calculate the actual greenhouse gas reductions that the practices of the students and their families have resulted in,” said Davies. “That data is then forwarded to the sponsors of the program.”


Four classes at the Summerland Middle School and four classes at the Dorothea Walker Elementary School in Kelowna have participated in the program, thanks to the FTFO. The society said it has three classes lined up at the KVR Middle School in Penticton that are eager to participate.


“We are anticipating a further three classes participating, possibly at KVR Middle School or Skaha Middle School, to be involved in this particular challenge. The challenge involves six classes competing against each other for the greatest greenhouse gas emissions reduction,” said Davies. “The cost of the program for six classes is $3,800 That is made up of $550 per class and covers the educator compensation, all the materials the students use, the prizes for the winning classes and students and also the calculation of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions and reporting.”


Davies stated that to date, School District 67 has not contributed financially to this program. She added that the society is hoping to have the city’s decision regarding its support by the new year.


“On average, participating students and their families have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by about one tonne of carbon dioxide per month, which is the month of their involvement. If there is anxiety in students about the extremity (of climate change), the point is to get students involved in addressing the problem,” said Davies. “This creates a culture of action that these kids can use and hopefully take with them as they develop and into their whole lives. In other words, a break from school learning to real-life decision making.”


“This is encouraging and I so agree with your comment that children are anxious, we’re seeing it worldwide, and this is giving them a tool to do something,” said Coun. Judy Sentes. “Certainly the city has obligations regarding greenhouse emissions and I think this could be an excellent partnership that would have long, long-reaching effects I would hope with these young people.”


Because FTFO missed the August deadline to apply for a grant for this program from the city, applications already received will be addressed by the council first during the upcoming budget discussions. As a result, this request for support will be addressed early in 2020 once the budget is approved.


Written by Jordyn Thomson. Original is published in the Penticton Western News on November 5, 2019.


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First Things First Okanagan is a non-profit society encouraging the public and all levels of government to take actions to halt climate change.