Celebrating learners who help the environment while exploring their passions.

At SelfDesign Learning Community, we place learners at the centre of their own learning. Because our approach allows them to explore their interests and passions, our learners routinely engage in projects and activities that are meaningful to them, their local communities and their local environment.

Many of these projects are inspired by our learners’ desire to make a difference in the world around them. In the process, they help the environment, learn about the world and themselves and develop skills.

“We offer our learners the opportunity to use their interests and passions to meet BC Ministry of Education curriculum requirements,” says SelfDesign’s Principal of Educational Programs Nikki Kenyon. “By the time learners leave SelfDesign, they are set up for their future in a really beneficial way.”

This week, to celebrate Earth Day 2021 (April 22), we look back at three projects and activities our learners have undertaken that fed their passions while helping local environments and communities.

Beach cleanup

Cianan and Callum McGuffin are avid Salt Spring Island sailors and outdoor enthusiasts. For one of their projects in grades 10 to 12, the twins decided to collect garbage that had washed up on one of the beaches on Saturna Island, one of B.C.’s southern Gulf islands.

“We found it disturbing just how much damage we as humans, and even us ourselves, were doing to the environment,” Cianan says. “We decided we had to take action. We got a few of our friends excited about it too.”

The McGuffins planned and organized the two-day January 2016 expedition. In total, the brothers and their friends collected three garbage bags of plastic, nylon and foam trash, a tire, a pool noodle, four large chunks of Styrofoam and an inflatable orca toy (still inflated!) from just half of the beach.

“We wanted to show people just how much damage was being done by garbage,” Cianan says. “We wanted to get them to understand the severity of it and show them that they can do something to help.”

Watch Cianan and Callum’s project video.

Seeds for the future

Food security is key to sustaining a healthy planet. At age 15, Quinne’s passion for gardening led to an opportunity to take over an established seed company.

While on vacation with her family, she stopped at a farm associated with a seed-supply company. The owner was looking to retire but didn’t want to let the seed lines she had carefully tended for 10 years to fade out. When she found out that Quinne loved gardening, she passed her business on to Quinne.

It was an opportunity for Quinne to further explore her passion for gardening, to learn about maintaining and developing seed lines suited to the region, to learn about running a business, and to encourage others to garden, grow food and connect to plants and growing cycles in their own backyards.

Read Quinne’s story.

A passion for sustainable farming

Sierra is a teenaged farmer on Vancouver Island who also helps teach classes and workshops about permaculture farming, carbon farming and carbon sequestration at Vancouver Island University and in her local community.

She’s also presented her story and her expertise to a global audience through a TEDx talk recorded in Seattle.

She credits her ability to explore her interests and develop her hands-on expertise in sustainable agriculture to SelfDesign’s flexible learner-led approach.

“I wouldn’t be in the same spot if it wasn’t for the fact that SelfDesign allowed me to really focus on my specific skills, passions and interests,” she says. “I’m so grateful that SelfDesign provided me with the support I needed to be able to really learn those core things – like math, science and English – through project-based learning on the farm.”

Watch Sierra’s TEDx talk.

SelfDesign learning resources to help learners think globally, act locally

Our innovative Learning Experiences Library provides a dynamic collection of carefully curated, advertisement-free resources, questions, suggestions and inspirations sparked by our learners’ curiosity and offered as integrated interest-based experiences. Some of the collections of resources that learners can use to learn about and explore environmental topics and activities include Planet Earth, birdwatching, climate change, natural resources, nature adventures, seasonal celebrations, and traditional ecological knowledge.

In addition, older learners at SelfDesign pursue their learning through the lenses of interest-based themes that include environment-related opportunities. These themes include, for example, Being the Change (grades 6 and 7), Foragers (grades 8 and 9), and animals, photography, science, leadership, and outdoor adventure (grades 10 to 12).

Learn more about SelfDesign’s Learning Experiences Library

Learn more about our approach