Given the recent devastating floods, mudslides and washouts in British Columbia, it’s obvious that the climate is changing here on Vancouver Island and around the world. Climate change and a host of other issues are having significant impacts on our communities. One response people have in these situations is to ask what can I do? This fall Westmont Montessori School hosted the first annual Westmont Prize, where students in grades 7 – 11 collaborated in teams of 4, and picked one of five sustainability issues and found workable solutions to be agents of change. Teams could pick one of five issues: the toxic drug overdose crisis, climate change, living wage, affordable housing and old growth logging. The Westmont Prize is designed to have students identify solutions that can answer the question, “what can I do?” about these important issues, and have them ideate solutions that can be implemented.
The Westmont Prize challenged students to collaborate and find solutions that could be implemented by teens in the region. It was inspiring to see middle and high school students dig deeper to understand issues that are impacting our communities and find real solutions through working together. Students were inspired by the process and to have a platform to share their ideas. The Westmont Prize showed all involved that the answer to “what can I do” when faced with significant sustainability issues can be answered by passionate teens working together.
The Westmont Prize had students pick one of the five sustainability topics and participate in a one-hour presentation by an expert speaker. These presentations were then followed by a question-and-answer session for students to explore the issue in greater detail. Expert speakers also provided a resource list for further learning.
Students then met at the Olympic View Golf Course for an all-day workshop on how to better understand problems using a problem-solving framework, develop solutions using a solution-framework, and received professional presentations on impactful pitches and how to create powerful videos.
Students then had 4 days to create a 5 – 7 minute video that outlined the problem they picked, a solution that they created and that could be implemented by teens like them, and a reflection on the collaboration process. A panel of five judges then reviewed all 18 video submissions and using a scoring rubric, determined the top winners.
The winning team was announced at the Awards Gala, held at the Farquhar Auditorium at the University of Victoria in late November. A summary video from each team was viewed by the audience and every team received feedback from one of five judges. Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich Gulf Islands along with Magnus Hanton, Head of School at Westmont awarded a shared $10,000 scholarship prize to the winning team made up of Zeinab Guitouni, a grade 9 student from Glen Lyon Norfolk School, Thea Damian, a grade 9 student from Claremont Secondary, Matteo Carere and Sebastian Damina, both grade 7 students from Ecole Brodeur. Silver prize winners were given seasons passes to WildPlay and the two teams tied for bronze were awarded gift cards for IMAX.
The Westmont Prize
A Taste of Westmont’s High School
The Westmont Prize is modeled after our High School program. In our High School program, experiential learning comes to the fore and our learning is framed by projects tackled through the model of design thinking. We bring the students to the world both virtually and in person, by creating learning experiences in progressive environments that offer knowledge from the real world not a textbook – from business incubators to makerspaces, organic farms to ocean biology labs, university lectures to expert mentorships, local explorations to global adventures.