Five students from the Olds High School are ready to implement their eco-projects after attending the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conference.  

The students traveled to Toronto in April for the conference, which focused on Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change.  

“It felt very empowering to attend the conference,” said Ross Sadlemyer, a Grade 10 student. “I’m motivated to make a difference. It was great to see what so many others are doing.”  

Students attended a variety of sessions all focused on climate change and sustainability.   

“It gave me much more hope,” said Shelby Schekk, a Grade 11 student, “Knowing that we can take action.”  

Schekk said she enjoyed learning about water filtration and Indigenous storytelling connected to climate change.  

A session about fast fashion stood out for Sadlemyer and Grade 9 student Ashton Bird.  

“I learned about greenwashing, and how companies sometimes market themselves as environmentally friendly but are just doing that to make themselves look better,” said Bird. “I liked hearing different ideas about what we can do.”  

Grade 10 student, Keianna Aubin, said she enjoyed hearing from student presenters who shared what they have done to make a difference.   

“It took courage for them to share their projects in front of everyone,” said Aubin. “It helped us see what you can do for your own action plan in your school.”  

After returning from the conference, the students must implement an eco-project that will benefit their school.   

The five have several projects in mind, such as creating planter boxes that they will place around their school, containing plants native to Alberta.  

They are hopeful that students and staff who see the planters will understand more about the environmental impact of what plants they choose to use.   

The group is also interested in creating a favorable environment for pollinators.   

Lastly, the students want to add another clothing swap to the one already at the school.   

Academic Coach and Indigenous Liaison at the Olds High School Bev Toews traveled with the students to the conference.   

“It was wonderful to see the students come together and become friends through this experience,” said Toews. “And now this group of students, who cared about climate change before they went to the conference, are armed with ideas and connected with each other so they can take action. It’s empowering for them.”  

Toews is hopeful to work with the five students on the eco-projects, and get other students and staff involved.   

“Bringing people together is powerful, and it can plant seeds that grow into positive change,” she said.