Jenny Howell is the water wise instructor and the executive director of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society. (Photo submitted)

Jenny Howell is the water wise instructor and the executive director of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society. (Photo submitted)

DOWN TO EARTH: The 2021 Earth Challenge

Jenny Howell

Special to the Tribune

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote an article about the 2020 COVID Earth Challenge.

Teachers were trying to keep their classes together online. Everyone was going through a very rapid technology learning curve and just trying to get through as best as they could. Part of the Earth Challenge is a quiz between the Grade 7 classes, so at the Conservation Society we muddled through Zoom and watched as fuzzy kids appeared on screen from their homes, connecting and chatting to their classmates, focused on answering quiz questions.

It was an uplifting experience seeing the maturity and camaraderie between classmates and the work they were all still doing, in a time when every single world citizen was feeling their way through a new situation.

This year we are in a different place and hoping for normality ahead. The Earth Challenge pulls together instructors from different groups; the Conservation Society, Scout Island, the Invasive Species Council and the Air Quality Roundtable. Most instructors were able to teach classes in person — outside and distanced, but doable. For the quiz we stuck to Zoom, running them one at a time for each class, with a year’s confidence now in our ability to share screens and switch hosts. It was again encouraging, glimpsing into classrooms, watching kids work together, appreciating the time and effort many kids had put into studying.

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The students also produced projects again, and we had power-points, models, dioramas, posters, brochures, skits, videos, animations, minecraft ecovillages and one class that took on the mammoth project of trying to get all the other Grade 7 classes to reduce their classroom waste over time. One of my favourite projects was a large model that showed the whole watershed in plasticine with pipecleaners coding for local ecosystems.

The winners of the Earth Challenge emerge after coming up with a combined quiz and project mark for each class. We had five winners this year; with prizes of field trips or an option of gift certificates to the Farmer’s Market or the Bean Counter. The winning class was Mr. O Keefe’s Grade 7 class, followed closely by Ms. Watkinson’s, then Ms. Renn’s and a fourth-place tie between Mr. Tyne and Ms. Vath. The hard part of a competition is that there are winners and losers, and in this case, results were quite close and there were outstanding projects from every class. We made sure the other four classes all received a treat for their efforts.

This crop of 12-year-olds and their teachers have weathered a very strange school year. There are going to be more challenges ahead of them in their lives, some of which are very likely to be climate-related. The Earth Challenge aims to give them a basic grounding on some key ecological issues, but also a sense of agency in that we can all help to make the changes the planet needs both at a personal and a political level.

Waste Wise Tip: Take a litterless lunch to work or school. Use reusable containers and avoid single use plastics.

For more information on Water Wise or Waste Wise and any of our school and community programs, contact the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society at or visit the website at

Jenny Howell is a Water Wise instructor and the executive director of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.

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