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Pathways to Sustainability: Leadership at Rankin School of the Narrows

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Wow, Rankin School of the Narrows is on a roll! Students and staff are keeping plastic out of landfills and oceans, diverting waste, providing homes for birds, and saving energy too!

I arrived at Rankin on a drizzly spring morning and the first thing I noticed was that all the students and many teachers were out walking around the cul de sac. I found out they do this every morning to get their hearts pumping and brains in good thinking order to start the day. Spending time outside being active every day also helps students connect with nature.

In January, a group of passionate students at Rankin, along with teacher Susan Fraser, formed a Green Team for their school. One of the first events they held was a used book sale. Students brought in books they were finished with and displayed them on tables in the cafeteria. Students could buy a new book for 25 cents. The money was raised to support Green Team initiatives. The remaining books were donated to local charities in Cape Breton.

Last month, Rankin School eliminated disposable plastic cutlery, cups, and bowls from their cafeteria and replaced them with metal cutlery and washable cups and bowls. I spoke with staff member Amanda in the cafeteria. She said she loves the switch to reusables. “It’s nice to not see all that plastic in the garbage,” she said, “and the kids are good to put their cutlery in the proper place when they are done with it.” The Academic Support students come in to wash the dishes after the breakfast program and again after lunch. They enjoy this hands-on task and while I was there two students popped into the cafeteria to see if they could help out. Rankin has seen the amount of garbage shrink significantly since they got rid of single-use plastic in the cafeteria.

The Green Team was keen to learn more about the impact of single-use plastics on the oceans. They invited me to do a virtual presentation on Ocean Plastics. We explored examples of art projects that bring awareness to this issue. The team is working on their own plastic art project that they will reveal on World Oceans Day, June 8th. We can’t wait to see how it turns out! Their next idea is to make reusable bags out of old t-shirts.

That’s not all this little P-12 school of 175 students is doing. They have lots of other projects on the go, too! There is a beautiful walking trail that teachers can use to take students outdoors for their lessons. Just above the trail, directly outside the elementary student classrooms, they’ve installed brightly coloured bird feeders and birdhouses. Pretty soon there could be a few new voices chirping from these cozy homes!

To help waste less energy, each classroom has a little smiley face sticker under one light switch. The sticker is a reminder to save energy by only turning on one switch rather than all the lights in a classroom. Often, out of habit, we may turn on all the lights when we enter a room, rather than thinking about which lights are necessary— if any at all!

This spring, Rankin students participated in the Plastic Bag Grab Challenge. Students brought in all their grocery bags from home that would otherwise get tossed. They collected over 900 plastic bags! The bags were taken to collection points where they would be sent for proper recycling and turned into something new.

Way to go, Rankin School of the Narrows!

~Shandel Brown
Cape Breton Engagement Officer

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