SWITCH, the Solar and Wind Initiatives Towards Change

The Problem

We believe in educating today’s youth about climate change through renewable energies, so that tomorrow they can have a positive impact on the environment. Our goal is to implement solar and wind generation in schools throughout the TDSB, Canada’s largest school board, making it the first school board in the world to do so. SWITCH does research in order to understand solar and wind power generation as a likely means of powering the future. We work with different companies and organizations with a similar purpose, helping them with their projects and building on our knowledge and network. We compete in various competitions, such as the Ontario-wide WindENG (a wind turbine engineering competition) at the University of Guelph – in which SWITCH placed first. We also attend or deliver workshops and visit other schools. We develop programs to involve other schools, integrate sustainability workshops into curriculum, and attend events such as an environmental conference between Stephen Lewis and Dr. Suzuki, the Kyoto Rally, Earth day celebrations city-wide, etc. We currently have many other projects in the works, and always welcome new ideas and new members! SWITCH ‘EM is a category of SWITCH within elementary schools. Our ideals and purposes are the same, however the methods we use to achieve our goals are specifically tailored for the age groups and TDSB curriculum in this demographic. Seeing as on of our primary goals is to educate, SWITCH ‘EM (SWITCH Elementary) targets elementary level students and discusses parts of their curriculum that relate to sustainability. In addition to this discussion, students are introduced to the SWITCH organization and are given some idea as to what other youths are doing that is affecting a positive change for our planet. The discussions are highly interactive, and the students who lead the workshop use a variety of methods and media to make the experience more effective, and at the same time, more enjoyable. Also, since it is a workshop rather than a lecture, an activity that requires the students to be creative while exercising practicing critical thinking and activism will follow the conversation. Workshops are available for students in grades three to eight, although on occasion we will come in for up to half an hour for classes as young as grade one. Normally workshops are 45 minutes in length (one period), however this can be tailored to meet individual needs. Also, the workshop in itself can be altered to fit different needs; if there is a specific topic a teacher/student would like covered or a specific type of activity the host wants the students to complete, or even if this host only wants the help of a SWITCH rep while performing a workshop of his/her/their own (this depends on certain individual circumstances), we will try to suit those needs. SWITCH is completely directed, organized, and executed by Canadian youth, currently all at the high school level from thirteen to eighteen years of age. We also have several supervising administrators/teachers who are all extremely dedicated, supportive individuals. Partners include (but are not limited to) Project Equity and Parc Downsview Park Inc, and our biggest supporter is the McLean Foundation. SWITCH is of course about environmentalism and social action, but there are many more aspects to the organization. We are about teamwork, communication, leadership and initiative, education, friendship, commitment, and much more. SWITCH members gain a renewed sense of self pride and confidence, and they feel that each person is really making a difference. Students meet new people and attain networking skills that will really help them throughout their lives. Members leave meetings feeling more responsible and – although sometimes exhausted – fulfilled. Strong ties are made with other team mates, many of which will become lifelong friendships. SWITCH members also have the opportunity to meet people they might be interested in, like Dr. David Suzuki, Mr. Steven Page, George Stroumboulopoulos, and many politicians of all levels. The youth also have access to the people at the top of our partner organizations, Parc Downsview Park Inc. and Project Equity. Overall the SWITCH experience is a very enjoyable one, and one which the member will take with them for the rest of their life. There is room for people of all skill sets, with all sorts of interests and abilities, and with all types of schedules. There are different departments and levels within SWITCH, ranging from public relations to media and publicity, and from research, to website design, to workshop presentations and curriculum design. Whoever you are, if you have a love for the environment and a craving for fun, SWITCH is right for you. You will receive lifelong support in your endeavours Last year we had 11 significant campaigns to raise awareness and funds for our final event. Campaigns included a rally, a garbage audit, environmental day celebrations, a track run in the snow,and more. On April 17th, 2007, Dr. David Suzuki delivered a keynote speech to an audience of about 400 of the most environmentally active students in all of Ontario. Other speakers included Mr. Steven Page (lead singer of the Barenaked Ladies), Frank de Jong (provincial Green Party leader), Councillor Gord Perks, and industrial Designer Dawn Danby. We also had several bands including Crush Luther and Dylan Murray, and many organizations, such as Downsview Park, Project Equity, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, GreenSavers, several City of Toronto branches, etc (the list goes on), came out for the day with a variety of information. For more information, visit our website at www.itstimetoswitch.org

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