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Booker School students' self-led projects see real results

Forrest Robinson, Will Mercer, principal James Weekes, Colin Stephens, Henry Mulherin and teacher Temma Frecker each stand with a bike that's been refurbished by Stephens. The bikes will all be donated to people in Kings County who cannot afford their own.
Forrest Robinson, Will Mercer, principal James Weekes, Colin Stephens, Henry Mulherin and teacher Temma Frecker each stand with a bike that's been refurbished by Stephens. The bikes will all be donated to people in Kings County who cannot afford their own. - Sara Ericsson

PORT WILLIAMS – Self-led projects students are pursuing at the Booker School are leading to very real change in Port Williams and other areas in Kings County.

Projects like that of Grade 6 student Colin Stephens, who is refurbishing old bikes to donate back into the community, as part of his six-week long personal project term which sees each student choose a topic to research and take action with.

Stephens said his bikes will be given to people who’ve never been able to afford their own. His and other projects are all focused on how to help people and the planet using sustainable methods.

“We’re not only learning things but making a difference for other people, which is really important,” said Grade 8 student Forrest Robinson.

Bringing bikes to people and renewable energy to others

Stephens, Robinson and classmates Will Mercer, Grade 8, and Henry Mulherin, Grade 7, each gave presentations at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market April 25 to showcase their respective projects.

Each project relates to the United Nations’ 17 goals for sustainable development, which include topics like education, equality, ending poverty and climate action, and must be focused on how to take action to help in their local area.

Stephens is focusing on learning to fix bikes because he wanted to combine learning practical skills with helping people and is aiming to collect and donate 30 bikes.

“This will make these people happy, and then they can share in the fun experience of biking they didn’t have before,” he said.

Robinson is promoting renewable energy sources after his research found 65 per cent of Nova Scotia Power’s energy is sourced from coal. His focus is on showing there are systems that exist – like net-metering, which gives customers a free kilowatt of energy for every kilowatt their panels produce – which help the environment and also benefit people using renewable energy sources.

He’s now writing a proposal to turn the school’s garage roof into a solar energy system.

“I’m going to present that to the school’s building committee – the roof faces east, so it would be a great plan,” he said.

Addressing poverty and working to solve ocean pollution

Mercer’s project focuses on identifying invisible homelessness and stigma associated with poverty, and working to dispel common stigmas on what causes poverty.

After his research revealed one in three people in the Annapolis Valley live with homelessness, Mercer decided to volunteer with an outreach organization and food bank to help the problem firsthand, and will develop an online game to educate people on what privilege looks like.

“I’ve been to lots of places and witnessed poverty. Just because you can’t see it here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening,” he said.

Mulherin’s project combined his 3D-printing skills with his passion for ocean environments. After reading about increasing volumes of garbage dumping in oceans that are now reaching 8 millions per year, he designed and 3D-printed small-scale troughs that pump and filter garbage out of water, and even created a concept for a floating solar still that would evaporate water and trap microplastics.

“Fish eat them, then we eat the fish – so it’s a very big problem,” he said.

Research leads to real-life application skills

The students described what it’s like to plan, research and take action with their respective projects, agreeing that the self-taught approach is a rewarding one that surprises them.

“If we discover something different, we can incorporate that while staying on the same topic. We choose what we learn and how we learn it,” said Robinson.

Booker School teacher Temma Frecker said she is constantly impressed with the students’ personal projects, which are self-led, adhering only to a structure of setting goals and action plans monitored by the teacher but set out by the student.

“I’m seeing so many real-life application skills with these. They always happen with these projects because the students are so passionate about their topics,” she said.

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