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Brain Power is an innovative leader in after-school enrichment education for bright and gifted students in Vaughan, Ontario. Their core programming offers everything from aerospace engineering and public speaking to academic field trips and experiential learning. Brain Power prides itself on providing learning opportunities that incorporate themes of social justice and environmental education.
Bullfrog recently touched base with Brain Power’s founder and its students to see how they are approaching environmental education at the centre. “Our approach is tri-fold,” says Dr. Karine Tomas, Founder, Director and Lead Instructor of Brain Power Enrichment Programs Ltd. “We incorporate environmental themes into our core programming where appropriate, and provide students with an additional opportunity through our social justice book club. Students are asked to think critically about influential texts, considering the issues within the context of the real world and what it means to be agents of change in the world and their own lives. Then, we provide hands-on opportunities to put their learnings into action.”
For example, when they read Robert C. O’Brien’s Through the Valley, a novel about a teenage girl who believes she is the last survivor of nuclear war, the club considered the environmental impacts of various forms of energy generation, from coal, oil and nuclear to climate-friendly alternatives, like wind, solar, and low-impact hydro.
In 2014, Brain Power was invited to move into a local community centre. The space was a blank slate, and Tomas saw it as a unique learning opportunity for her students. Together, they began the Eco-Build, an initiative that would incorporate as many sustainable design and construction processes as possible. This project ensures their clients learn about environmental responsibility both in and from Brain Power’s space.
Students participated in the initiative in a variety of ways. Some worked with a group of local green building experts to incorporate low-impact, non-toxic and recycled building materials into the renovation (their drywall is made of recycled, pressed tetrapaks, and their insulation is made of recycled jeans!).
Others contributed by documenting the process through blog posts and a video documentary, or by creating artwork to decorate the space once the build was complete. They even used the excess denim insulation, tetrapak drywall and extra wiring to create a signature art installation of a giant brain for the space. “Building the ‘brain’ exemplified the importance of upcycling. The result hangs in the entrance of the centre as a reminder of the importance of embracing eco-friendliness—not to mention that building it was a blast!” says Sasha, one student involved in the project.
When asked about the project, Denesh, a Grade 12 Brain Power student reflected, “This project changed the way I tackle problems and helped me feel as though I can do anything as long as I put my mind to it. I thank my involvement in the eco-flagship build with Brain Power for showing me that it only seems impossible until it’s done.”
Bullfrog Power is happy to welcome Brain Power to the bullfrogpowered community. Brain Power chooses 100% green electricity for their newly renovated, eco-friendly learning centre in Vaughan.