Cleaning Up the Local Beach in Eckernförde, Germany

RS_Com_Service_GermanyWednesday was service day at the Round Square International Conference in Louisenlund. I was assigned to a larger group of ~60 delegates, all of whom would be participating in a cleanup of a local beach in the town of Eckernförde, just off the Baltic Sea. When we first arrived, I remarked to a friend that there really wasn’t much to clean: the beach looked spotless!

Boy, was I ever wrong.

We split into two groups and got our hands dirty, closely inspecting the sand for any trash in need of proper disposal. Amazingly, after a short half hour into our search, we had amassed several bucketfuls of various types of trash, including cigarettes, straws, wrappers and other unrecognizable pieces of plastic.

On Tuesday night, we were shown a clip about the staggering “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” It explained how the plastics in most consumer goods degrade extremely slowly in the ocean, though ultimately disintegrating into microplastics, or tiny pieces of plastic less than five millimetres in size. These plastics become extremely difficult to filter out from the seawater because they are so small, yet they still pose a deadly threat to animals and to other members of the aquatic and even terrestrial ecosystems.

We were stunned by just how much garbage we had collected during our short walk on the beach, especially after having been told that the particular beach we were on was being thoroughly cleaned weekly by the tourism office of the town. All the plastics we had found had essentially been washed ashore by the rolling waves of the Baltic Sea within the preceding few days, which is extremely concerning, especially seeing that we barely notice the issue of our polluted oceans on a day-to-day basis. –Adam Vandenbussche ’17

Impressive Iceland

IMG_1083Reporting LIVE from Germany: This is Abby writing on behalf of the entire LCC Round Square Conference Team and sharing with you our adventures encountered during our pre-conference trip to Iceland.

On October 5th, my group and I all met at the Montreal airport filled with excitement as well as 20 kilos of every single type of clothing we could fit into our bags (as Icelandic weather was a mystery to us!) Two plane rides later, a four-hour time difference and barely any sleep, we landed in Iceland and met the four other schools we were going to spend the next few days with. As we were all tired, we mostly spent our first day driving into Reykjavik, the capital of the country, and stopping to sightsee along the way. We explored Viking World where we learned about the history and culture of the country. We even got to go on a boat at the museum! 

The second day was jam-packed. We started off by visiting the Golden Circle, which is a huge waterfall! After having barely made it out alive due to the strong winds, we got back onto the bus and went to go see geysers. This is where I learned that Iceland is home to thousands of geysers that contain an abundance of sulfur. Steam would be spraying out of all these holes and, for the biggest one there, it would explode every 15 minutes. I was lucky enough to see the geyser’s water burst up into the air and even fall all over some of my friends on the trip that, without knowing, were in the “splash zone.” Finally, at night we went to the Blue Lagoon. Personally, this was my favourite part of the trip. We got to swim in an actual hot spring! Our group went very late at night, which made the experience even more memorable as we were entirely in the dark. We all got to spend two hours in the lagoon, which was warm and incredibly wavy. This was scary for me since we were told that it was not a good idea to get our hair wet in the water as it would become hard. I therefore had to bounce around and “ride the waves” to ensure that my 5’1 body would not dunk under the water. We all had a superb time! 

On our final day, we put on our raincoat and saw lots of Iceland’s best waterfalls. Some of them, due to the wind, would even stream upwards, which was quite funny to look at. During one particular waterfall visit, we got to make a wish in the country’s finest wishing well (legend has it that, if you watch your coin make it all the way to the bottom of the water, your wish will come true!) After this, we did our big adventure of the day: glacier hiking. We were given crampons for our feet and ice picks and got to hike all around the ice. This was a cool experience as not only was it fun but we also learned a lot about global warming. Iceland’s glaciers have been melting. Two weeks ago, they installed something that would measure how much ice is melting and the result was unthinkable. For example, one part of the hike was through a tunnel, which was one of the best parts. I was sad to hear that, at the current rate the ice is melting, the tunnel will probably be gone in the next two days… 

All in all, this was a great experience. Although the only thing we did not get to see were the Northern Lights, we all feel as though we had a fantastic time. As we say farewell to Iceland, we cannot wait to see what the actual conference has in store for us. Stay tuned!  –Abby Shine ’17

Une activité de jardinage pour protéger les papillons

Butterfly_GardenChaque année, les papillons monarques font un voyage de plus de 5000 km du Canada jusqu’au Mexique. Mais depuis quelques années, les populations de monarques ont atteint un creux historique d’à peine 33,5 millions en 2013, alors que leur moyenne annuelle avait été de 350 millions au cours des 15 dernières années.

Une des principales causes de ce déclin? La disparition marquée de la seule espèce de plantes dont se nourrissent les monarques et sur laquelle les femelles pondent leurs oeufs : l’asclépiade.

Le 26 mai, des élèves de 3e année à la 11e année ont participè à la sauvegarde des papillons en plantant des asclépiades, une plante vitale pour les monarques. Ce jardin papillon se trouve à côté du nouveau parking.

Vous voulez faire un petit geste concret et significatif pour protéger les monarques? Plantez aussi de l’asclépiade pour les accueillir chaleureusement cet été! Ce petit geste contribuera à créer un effet papillon pour la protection des monarques, qui dépendent de nous pour assurer leur survie.

Voici des commentaires d’élèves du junior school après l’activité :

  • «J’ai beaucoup aimé planter des asclépiades pour aider les papillons monarques à survivre. J’aime les papillons et faire du jardinage. J’espère que les papillons vont aimer nos plantations!» Vanessa Melki, 4e année
  • «J’ai trouvé que c’était une très bonne initiative de planter des asclépiades pour attirer les papillons monarques puisque ces insectes sont très beaux et peuvent embellir l’école.» Édouard Des Parois Perrault, 6e année
  • «J’ai beaucoup aimé cette expérience en jardinage parce qu’on a donné plus de beauté à l’école.» Adam Trasher, 6e année
  • «Just to think that this activity can bring beauty and wonder to our school and could change the way we live our lives.» Élan Martin-Prashad, grade 6
  • «J’ai beaucoup aimé planter les différentes espèces végétales parce qu’on aidait l’environnement et les papillons.» Amélie Stevenson, 4e année
  • «J’ai aimé jardiner parce que j’ai appris à mieux jardiner.» Brendan Singleton, 4e année
  • «J’ai beaucoup aimé planter des arbustes et enlever les mauvaises herbes du joli jardin.» Maya Lutfy-Friedman, 4e année
  • «I really liked gardening because it was fun to help out and help the butterflies.» Gianluca Pietrantonio, grade 4
  • «J’ai aimé faire le jardinage avec mon amie Annia. C’était tellement amusant d’aider ainsi les papillons.» Annie Shane, 4e année
  • «J’ai aimé faire le jardinage pour aider les papillons. C’était tellement amusant. J’aimerais le faire à nouveau!» Annia Sandler, 4e année

Nous tenons à remercier Greg Lynch de Mantis Environmental pour avoir supervisé la création du jardin, la fondation David Suziki qui est à l’origine du projet: “L’effet papillon” ainsi que la fondation Monarch Watch qui nous a permis d’utiliser leur poster “Bring back the Monarch”.

Photo gallery

An Eco Perspective

IMG_0242 copyA book by American scientist, Rachel Carson, entitled Silent Spring, was published in 1962 and literally changed the world. I always associate that book and its subsequent impact with the birth of the modern environmental movement. It identified significant health hazards for birds and humans resulting from the wide use of pesticides. Essentially, it laid the groundwork for the eventual banning of a harmful chemical called DDT. In the late 1960s, along with the anti-nuclear movement, the ecological movement became a political force for the first time.

In 1971, the private interest group Greenpeace was born in a kitchen in Vancouver, as was the new federal government agency, Environment Canada. That was one year after the USA created the EPA – the Environmental Protection Agency.

Over the past decade here at LCC, we have made a concerted effort as a community to be mindful of our environmental impact and be a more sustainable school. It begins with teaching about environmental responsibility and sustainable practices in various classes while simultaneously implementing sustainable practices in the operation of our facilities. This has ranged from installing high efficiency furnaces in the main school, a geothermal heating system in the new Assaly Arts building, to installing efficient lighting and taps and urinals in washrooms to save water. Our arena is now distinguished for its green technology that sets it apart from most other rinks in Montreal.

Even our turf field was put in two summers ago with sustainability in mind. No, it is not natural grass, but we first completed a detailed environmental impact analysis prior to deciding about its installation. The turf was actually deemed environmentally neutral by a respected environmental consultant. Yes, it’s an artificial product, but it has helped eliminate significant busing of students to the West Island for spring practices, and has massively reduced water and fertilizer requirements necessary with natural grass. In the end, we are operating a high-traffic outdoor facility. We have gained weeks of field time we didn’t have on the shoulder seasons of late fall and early spring, when grass is actually unusable.

I think that improving the state of our environment is an overwhelming question for many students. They get confused by the abstract nature of “environmentalism” and what that actually means. Some tend to wonder: “What can I do at the individual level to have any positive impact?”

It’s a good question. However, as Zia Tong, keynote speaker at the recent LCC Destiny Québec Conference and host of the national Science TV show Daily Planet noted, there is actually lots students can do. She asked student delegates to consider the ethical, moral, social, economic and environmental issues related to our throwaway culture. She urged us all to stop being what she called “suckers” for buying new things all the time – like phones – essentially just because they changed their shape, when our current phone works fine.

Yes, there’s a lot one can do to protect the environment. Where possible, choose locally- sourced food products that eliminate the impact of long distance travel and emissions, walk more, use public transit, limit showers to four minutes, use high efficiency light bulbs, buy eco-friendly products, and the list goes on and on. And, of course, we can try to live by the credo “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Simply commit to personal eco-practices that diminish harmful impact on our environment, one person at a time.

My thanks to Math teacher and “eco-warrior” Ms. Scattolin and the student Green Team for educating us and advocating for green practices in our community. Thanks also to all teachers who address sustainability in a creative way in the classroom. Yes, here at LCC we do some things well on the sustainability front, but by making thoughtful choices, we can always do better.

The older I get, and the more I travel outside of Canada where environmental degradation is often more visible and pressing, the more I feel thankful for the natural beauty and extraordinary, unspoiled resources we have in this blessed country. Let’s all commit to respect, steward and protect our environment. It’s our only planet and it is, indeed, very precious!

Christopher Shannon