A school teacher who got her kids outdoors and a farmer who has embraced weeds to help honeybees were the recipients of the 2019 Environmental Heroes Awards presented Saturday at Fort Langley National Historic Site.
Carleigh Smart, a teacher at Parkside Centennial Elementary in Aldergrove, won the individual category for finding third-party funding to support monthly outdoor education days for Grade 2 students.
Her awards biography described Smart as “driven by her background in environmental conservation and indigenous heritage to encourage environmental education and experiences for her class.”
She single-handedly obtained external funding for buses and coordinated with Metro Vancouver to utilize several local parks and natural spaces, even collecting a stock of rain jackets, snow pants and warm clothing to make sure that no child in any of the classes would miss out.
“It’s very humbling to be nominated for doing my job,” Smart told the Langley Advance Times.
When a school is surrounded by natural beauty, students should be able to get out to experience those beautiful places, she added.
“Our goal this year was to get the kids outside in a meaningful way, more than once,” Smart recalled.
There were, in fact, eight outdoor field trips.
“The students just had an absolutely amazing time, connecting with nature and doing outdoor activities,” Smart said.
“There’s stories that I could tell about kids who generally have a hard time in the classroom, having really successful days outside,” she added, “and to be able to be a part of that, as an educator, is really powerful.”
READ MORE: Enviro heroes lauded by Langley MP
In the organization/business category, the winner was Carolyn Essaunce, founder of Honest to Goodness Farm Co.
Essaunce is in the process of restoring a five-acre area at MacIness Farms into a pollinator conservation area to help reverse the decline in bee populations.
Essaunce manages 50 honeybee colonies, offering beekeeping mentorships, a host-a-hive program and livestock production, her awards biography stated.
The conservation area will include elements to encourage bees to build hives, like mud puddles, rotting trees and even mushroom habitat.
Once completed, the site will encourage education through a marked path that will include benches and informative plaques that suggest a different view of weeds like dandelions, viewing them not as an annoyance but as a source of food for bees.
Melanie MacIness, who accepted on behalf of Essaunce, called it an “important award.”
“What Carolyn has done, has really brought awareness [about] pollinators, and allows us to understand the importance of all the little weeds out there that we are trying to get rid of, and how important they are to the survival of all the pollinators.”
When it comes to weeds, MacIness suggested, people need to learn “to be comfortable in the chaos that our wild nature bestows upon us.”
Winners have $500 donated to the local environmental organization of their choice, as well as a plaque at a heritage tree planted at the fort in their honour.
Langley Township mayor Jack Froese praised the winners and all the nominees for going beyond talking about the environment.
“You’re actually doing stuff,” Froese said.
“You’re making a difference.”
Langley City was represented at the event by counillor Rudy Storteboom.
Environmental Hero awards were started by MP Mark Warawa in 2006 as a way to recognize Langley’s grassroots efforts, big and small, to protect the environment.
Warawa, who remained in hospital in Vancouver following surgery for colon cancer, was unable to attend.
His wife, Diane, was presented with a plaque from the Township at the event for her husband.
It thanked Warawa, “for your exceptional commitment to our community, your years of dedication and hard work and the legacy you created through the Langley Environmental Hero Awards.’
“This is really a great honour,” Diane said.
She thanked all the nominees and the partners who back the event “for coming alongside and believing in this vision that Mark had. Thank you and God bless you.”
An online update posted by Warawa said that the May 22 surgery was “longer and more complicated than they [doctors] expected.”
“Your prayers are the best way to help us through this long recovery phase,” Warawa added.
“God’s promises remain true and my trust in Him remains strong.”
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