Cochrane science teacher awarded for innovative project
Cochrane High School (CHS) science teacher Stephanie Bennett was one of 20 educators who were awarded at the 2012 Alberta Education Excellence in Teaching Awards, May 26 in Calgary.
Although she was unable to attend the awards presentation, as she was on a school trip to the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico, the Grade 11/12 biology and Grade 10/12 general science teacher said she was honoured by the award.
“I’m very humbled by this recognition,” said Bennett. “You never really know the impact that you’re having, so this has truly been a wonderful honour.”
The award recognized Bennett’s innovative work in initiating and maintaining the CHS Sustainable Development Project, which is currently in its seventh phase.
Bennett created the project with fellow CHS science teacher Earl Binder in 2000, when a focus on renewable energy sources was integrated into the Grade 10 science curriculum.
“We wanted to walk the talk,” she said. “We didn’t want to just do an essay topic, we really wanted to see if we could showcase this kind of technology. The project has really taken off from there.”
Since that time, students have installed a photovoltaic and wind energy system including dozens of solar panels on the school’s roof, a solar hot water system, rain barrels, a garden, “no idling” signs in the school’s parking lot, waterless urinals, dual-flush toilets and recycling bins. Students and staff are currently working on securing funding to install a second wind turbine on the property and hope to switch to LED lighting in parts of the school after that.
“(The students have) gained skills in public speaking, sustainability, initiating change, community relations, and even just understanding the science behind it so they can weigh the pros and cons of renewable energy resources and actually engage in some authentic discussions about this kind of technology,” said Bennett.
Bennett came to Cochrane 21 years ago after teaching in the Yukon for six months following her graduation from the University of Lethbridge with a Bachelor of Education.
For more information on the Excellence in Teaching Awards, visit www.education.alberta.ca/teachers/excellence. To find out more about the CHS Sustainable Development Project, visit www.sustainabledevelopment.ca