Charles C. McLean is a ‘Superpower Your School’ winner in Staples’ contest

    Charles C. McLean Public School in Gore Bay has been selected as a winner in the Staples Canada ‘Superpower Your School Contest.’ The school is only one of 10 schools (from close to 700 schools in Canada who participated) to be cited for the award. In photo are Grade 4/5 students and teacher Heather Jefkins with the classroom micro-hatchery.

    GORE BAY—Charles C. McLean Public School has been chosen by Staples Canada and Earth Day as one of 10 winners in Canada in the Superpower Your School contest. The school impressed contest organizers with their environmental programs aimed at promoting agriculture and ecological sustainability within their school and local community. C.C. McLean was the only elementary school in Ontario to win, and one of the five elementary schools chosen for the award across Canada, which comes with a prize of $25,000 to go towards new technology at the school.

    “They actually called two weeks ago, and said we weren’t allowed to tell anyone, until it was officially announced, then a communications person from Staples called later and said we had won,” stated  Tracey Chapman, principal of C.C. McLean, last Friday. “I thought she was calling to confirm that we were one of the top 10 to be considered for the award. So I said, are you telling me we won $25,000 by winning the contest and she said yes, that is that’s why I am calling.”

    “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it,” stated Ms. Chapman, recalling being given the news. “It is unbelievable. I then asked her if I could put her on hold and I yelled to Dayle (Wright-school secretary)-we won!”

    Ms. Chapman explained, “the school in general, staff and students have taken on so many initiatives in the past couple of years. It’s really good to have these efforts acknowledged and celebrated. Schools that were selected make a difference environmentally, and everyone in the school can feel good about being one of the winners, everyone has had a hand in this.”

    Close to 700 schools across Canada entered the contest. “To be one of the schools chosen in a small, remote area, and a school of our size-to receive such a prestigious award is incredible,” Ms. Chapman said. She pointed out that teacher Heather Jefkins put the application together. “She did a great job on this, every word and detail mattered, every word had to be articulated so it would have the most impact.” She pointed out the written nomination-application was the only form used to determine the winners in the contest.”

    Ms. Jefkins explained that principal Chapman had, “forwarded the Staples Contest information to me, and (last December) and asked if I thought I would like to submit an entry. I thought it looked like an interesting way to showcase our school on a national level. I looked at the entry form and realized that the micro-hatchery in my classroom would definitely be part of the submission. But then when I looked around for additional information, I realized that our school has really done a lot for environmental programs!”

    “I knew I needed to get details from individual teachers, so I had a discussion with the school staff over a couple of nutrition breaks, and started making a list. From that list I started writing the answers to the questions that were part of the contest submission.”

    One question was what does your school do to help the environment? Tell us about your school’s creative and innovative environmental projects and programs. Ms. Jefkins wrote, “C.C. McLean has a number of environmental programs that have evolved over the last four years. Our Kindergarten class has transformed an unused courtyard into a  garden with flowers, fruit bearing plans, and raised-bed gardens that produce vegetables for the students to eat. Our SK/Grade 1 class has created a garden area in our schoolyard. They have also initiated a special composting program, and have involved the grade three and four classes in being ‘Compost Captains.’ The Grade 7/8 class has built large composting containers that create rich soil for all the gardens.”

    “New trees have been planted in our schoolyard through school-wide fundraising efforts, and the support of Hydro One’s Arbour Day program. We have partnered with the Manitoulin Streams Project to do shoreline clean-up projects along Gore Bay and Bickell’s Creek,” wrote Ms. Jefkins. “This spring the Grade 2/3 class will be helping remove Purple Loosestrife (an invasive species) within our municipality.” “The Grade 4/5 class has partnered with the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club to set up a Chinook Salmon micro-hatchery in their classroom. Our school has a Go Green Club that encourages support of programs like ‘Litterless Lunches’ and ‘Paper-free Days.’ The Grade 7/8 class organized a  fundraising effort to adopt a polar bear through the World Wildlife Fund,”continued Ms. Jefkins. “A recycling program has been initiated with the help of our custodial staff and the Grade 7/8 class, diverting waste from our landfill. A water filling station has been installed, to reduce the amount of plastic water bottle waste from our school.”

    Question 2 asked about what the school’s most important environmental project or program is. She wrote, “our most innovative project is the Grade 4/5 micro-hatchery project. We are partnered with the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club (GBFGC), and are on our second year of raising Chinook Salmon for release into the North Channel of Lake Huron.”

    “During our first year we raised alevin which were hatched at the local hatchery,” wrote Ms. Jefkins. “This year the program expanded to include hatching the fertilized eggs from our own site. Students have learned about the life cycle of salmon, the importance of habitat and conservation efforts to protect the sport fishery, as well as commercial fishing. Our partnership with the GBFGC has allowed us to expand our micro-hatchery to actually receive eggs this year, and the success of our program has meant that two other elementary schools within our area are going to be hosting micro-hatcheries in their schools.”

    “We are currently hatching enough alevin to support all three micro-hatcheries across Manitoulin Island,” she wrote. “Sport and commercial fishing are part of the heritage of our area (Manitoulin Island, located in the North Channel of Lake Huron). The environmental impact of our project is two-fold because it not only supports the local fishery, it also teaches our students huge lessons about conservation, habitat preservation, and the impacts humans have on an environment as large as one of the Great Lakes.”

    “The Grade 4/5 class hosts guests from all classrooms, as well as the Gore Bay Child Care Centre. We invite parents and community members in to see the hatchery.”

    “I think everyone is the school is very proud of this award,” said Ms. Jefkins. “I heard different students talking about it in the hall and in classrooms. Our staff was very excited when it was announced  that we had won, because it will mean that more technology will be available to student to help them become even more engaged in the learning process. The purchase of additional technology to be shared within the school will truly help us ‘Superpower’ our classrooms with 21st Century Learning capabilities, and will allow more classrooms to develop projects that give students opportunities to share their learning in a different way instead of only regular ‘pencil and paper’ methods. My students have used the Google Suite of apps all year, and they have amazed me with the things they create to share their learning with others.”

    “I think this award demonstrates that you don’t need to have a huge staff or a large number of students to make a difference,” she added. “What you need is a staff that is willing to go the extra mile, to look for funding opportunities, to ask for donations, to seek volunteers  from our community, and to say ‘yes, we can do that’ when opportunities present themselves.  You also need a supportive community, and the communities of Western Manitoulin always support our students and our programs.”

    “One example of a successful eco-project would be the SK/1 Outside learning environment,” wrote Ms. Jefkins.  “It is not only a beautiful addition to our school yard with its plants, trees, benches and stepping stones, but also teaches student about garden care and the benefits of composting. Mrs. Christa Flood and her class started with a small composter, and have expanded to placing special composting buckets in each classroom, as well as large composters on the edge of the school yard.”

    “In addition, the ELK Courtyard Improvement project has created a vibrant space for learning about gardening, and allowing students to learn more about how food goes from garden to table. The Courtyard has become a vital ‘outdoor classroom’ for the ELKs and this wouldn’t have been possible without Mrs. Robyn Best looking at the space and figuring out how it could be better utilized (and then finding a way to make that happen!). Finally, the micro-hatchery in my classroom would not exist had Mr. Jim Sloss not contacted me in 2015 and asked if I would be willing to house it in my classroom. And those are just the biggest projects. Every day and in every classroom students are reminded about the importance of recycling, of using refillable water bottles, and of just being aware of their environment, and how small changes can make a difference. If you look at any of the eco-projects that are in our submission to the ‘2017 Superpower Your School Contest’ you will see that it takes a team to make them work. That team includes not only all the C.C. McLean staff, but also our parents and community supporters.”

    See next week’s Recorder for more coverage.