May 13, 2014:
When Principal Christian Gee presented his annual school improvement plan to the Board at Peace Wapiti Public School Division (PWSD) this past February, he certainly got everyone’s attention.
With just 65 students enrolled in Kindergarten to Grade 9, Elmworth School may be deemed small by any standards, but the energetic new Principal is not letting size impact his giant plans for the little community. Mr. Gee has been busy securing grants which will see the addition of a fitness centre to Elmworth School as early as this week, and plans for a community greenhouse are in the works as soon as he can secure the necessary funding.
Earlier this year, Mr. Gee applied for a ConocoPhillips grant to establish a fitness centre at the school, and was pleased to learn just last week that he had been approved for $17,000.
“We wanted a fitness center with weights and treadmills, so I contacted Apple Fitness for a quote, and discovered it was well beyond our means – around $40,000. They got back to me with an offer of $16,000 worth of refurbished equipment, and said they’d like to donate some new equipment, including a weight bench, a treadmill, an elliptical trainer and a recumbent bike,” says Mr. Gee.
Equipment will begin arriving this week. Following some minor power upgrades, the gym will be ready to go.
“The equipment we will be receiving is all industrial grade. When the fitness centre is not in use by students, my future goal is to see it opened up as a community gym for parents so that they can become role models for healthy living for their families,” says Mr. Gee.
On top of the fitness centre, Mr. Gee plans to construct a 60 by 24 ft. year-round solar-powered greenhouse with the help of corporate donations, local fundraising and lots of elbow grease. Future plans for the greenhouse include an aquaponics system – a healthy, self-sustaining closed system whereby greenhouse-grown plants feed fish. Parts two and three of the project include a rabbitry and the addition of vermiculture – the use of worms to create viable topsoil from food scraps.
With a commitment of $5,000 from Encana Corporation, and the remaining $1,000 from the ConocoPhillips grant, the $14,000 Elmworth Permaculture Project has started to become less dream, more reality. Mr. Gee has set his sights on starting the project as soon as all funding is in place, with the hope of securing local experts to act as advisors on the project.
“Construction of the greenhouse takes roughly three days. The aquaponics system will be supplemental to that and will take a week or so to complete. When the greenhouse is in operation, we will start by growing herbs and small fruit-bearing plants and work our way up from there,” says Mr. Gee.
“With the Elmworth Permaculture Project, students will have the opportunity to understand sustainable living in the 21st Century. Aquaponics brings the interconnected nature of clean water, plants, animals, and human existence to life for all who are involved. Visitors to our greenhouse will be able to experience first-hand a system that produces healthy food that is gentle on our environment,” says Mr. Gee.