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Muriel Clayton students win Eco Youth Award

By: Allison Chorney

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jan 23, 2014 12:18 pm

Students from Muriel Clayton Middle School pose with Mayor Peter Brown and their Eco Youth Award winning project on vermicomposting, on Jan. 21.
Students from Muriel Clayton Middle School pose with Mayor Peter Brown and their Eco Youth Award winning project on vermicomposting, on Jan. 21.
Allison Chorney /Rocky View Publishing

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Students at Muriel Clayton Middle School are thinking green, with over 60 Grade 8 students participating in numerous environmental programs. Their efforts have paid off, as they are the inaugural winners of the City of Airdrie’s Eco Youth Award.

On Jan. 21, Mayor Peter Brown presented the school with a $500 cheque from award sponsor FortisAlberta, to help keep these initiatives going at the school.

“You’re showcasing for the rest of the community how important our environment is,” Brown told the students at the presentation.

The school’s environmental initiatives began after teachers introduced a cross-curricular learning plan that put incorporated environmental awareness in all subjects.

“The focus was on the eco-system and how humans impact it,” said Patti Ball, a teacher at the school.

She said the students first learned about what Airdrie looked like 100 years ago, then at how human technology has impacted the area and finally how we can create a more sustainable environment.

From there, students were asked to come up with ways Muriel Clayton could be more sustainable. After a garbage audit from Paul Lyons, the City’s Waste and Recycling Education Co-ordinator, where he looked at the school’s garbage and showed the student how little was actually “real garbage” that could not be recycled or composted, the students made a plan.

“Paul was a wealth of information,” Ball said, adding he really helped the students understand just what they can do to help the environment.

The result was four campaigns aimed at reducing waste by encouraging students to bring garbage-less lunches, minimizing paper waste, increasing plastics recycling and creating a vermicomposting system for each grade in the school.

Vermicomposting is a type of organic composting utilizing the appetite of red wiggler worms to break down food waste. The composting system also helped students reduce paper waste as paper products can be shredded and added to the vermicomposting system. The resulting material is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner that the students will use to develop one of the gardens at the school in the spring.

“You give (the worms) apple cores and left over bananas and they eat it and poop it out,” said Grade 7 student Muq Zarar, 12.

She said the worms didn’t gross her out at all and that she enjoyed composting and that it is something she would like to do at home.

“It was really fun to do and I’d love to do it again,” she said.

She said she learned a lot from the projects and from a class trip to the recycling depot in particular.

“After the presentation (at the recycling depot) I thought it’d be way better to recycle things instead of throwing them in the garbage,” she said.

“It’s really cool for the kids to be recognized (with this award) because the kids did this themselves,” Ball said. “This isn’t a teacher award this is an award for the kids.”

“The students at Muriel Clayton have been a great example for all other students in Airdrie of ways we can make our schools more environmentally friendly,” Brown said in a press release.

“I sincerely congratulate the students and the teachers that got involved in such an amazing undertaking and I would like to acknowledge how proud I am of the initiative.”

Brown also took the opportunity to tell the students about the new curbside organic recycling program the City is introducing in April. He said the beauty of the new program is that waste products such as bone that cannot be composted in a conventional backyard-composting unit can be included in the City program.

He said the same waste the students are putting into their vermicomposting, can go into the new green bins at their homes.

The Eco Youth Award is one of three categories included in the Eco Awards presented by the City in partnership with FortisAlberta. The Eco Youth Award was open to any school, youth group or individual in the community that is involved in environmental initiatives and projects.

For more information on the Eco Awards, visit


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