Photo credit: Nicolas Teichrob


Taking a stand for conservation

March 28, 2017

By Diane Luckow

Over the past two years, SFU biologist Allison Kermode has visited 68 high schools throughout B.C. to inspire youth to get involved in helping to protect and conserve the province’s wilderness and wildlife.

It’s all due to a program she established in 2013 —Take a STAND: Youth for Conservation.

The program is centered around an award-winning film, STAND. It profiles B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest, which is under threat from proposed oil pipelines and other stressors. The film uses surfing and stand-up paddle boarding to engage youth and highlight the west coast’s ecological, cultural and aesthetic values.

Kermode developed and delivers the program with her co-founders—STAND filmmakers Nicolas Teichrob and Anthony Bonello, and Norm Hann, who is the stand-up paddle boarder and outdoors expedition leader featured in the film. SFU’s Pacific Water Research Centre (formerly the Centre for Coastal Science and Management) facilitates the program.

Kermode tours B.C. elementary and secondary schools with the filmmakers. Their goal: to foster environmental stewardship in youth across the province and empower students to become agents of effective social and environmental change in their communities.

Filmmaker Nicolas Teichrob (centre), with Norm Hann (centre right), introduces students at Burnaby Mountain Secondary School to his film STAND, winner of eight international film awards.

The program meets the Ministry of Education’s prescribed learning objectives and is offered free of charge to B.C. schools.

Since inception, the program has received funding from founding sponsor Tony Allard of Hearthstone Investments, as well as three SFU Community Engagement Grants, and a Canadian Tree Fund Grant (Jack Kimmel Award). This year, the program won a federal NSERC PromoScience grant. The funds help to operate the program, to create cutting-edge educational resources, and to promote its two annual contests—a video contest and a community innovation contest.

Professor Allison Kermode

SFU News caught up with Kermode to ask her more about this community engagement initiative.

Q: Why did you develop the program?

A: My main motivation was my concern over our coastlines and our beautiful wildlife in B.C. In 2012, I was hearing about various proposals, like the Northern Gateway Pipeline, to transport oil across the province to the coast. I felt B.C. has so many unique wildlife areas that need to be protected from this. I just really wanted to do something about it, and not feel so helpless.

Q: Why did you build the program around the film “Stand”?

A: In 2013, I went to the first screening of this beautiful film highlighting what was at stake from the pipeline proposals. It’s a very powerful film showcasing First Nations youth in central and northern B.C. who are concerned about a pipeline’s effect on the province’s people, landscapes and wildlife. I knew I could use it as a powerful teaching tool for youth, so I stayed after the screening and met the filmmakers Nic Teichrob and Anthony Bonello, and stand-up paddle boarder Norm Hann, who starred in the film. We had an instant connection and began developing the program.

Q: How does the program work?

A: In all, we’ve visited 70 schools to show the film and outline how youth can get directly involved in conservation. Norm gives an amazing presentation on the Great Bear Rainforest. He highlights the beautiful wildlife and the complex interactions between components of the ecosystems there. He also discusses the First Nations’ reliance on, and intimate connection to, the oceans, as well as their food-harvesting practices and knowledge relayed from generation to generation. Then, we launch two contests encouraging youth to take a stand. The Video Contest invites students to find their voice by producing a short video on what aspect of nature they’d like to protect (Protect what you love). The Community Innovation contest challenges students to come up with new ideas to enhance environmental awareness in the public, combat climate change, reduce waste, or save at-risk wildlife.

Q. Who else is involved in this initiative?

SFU grad students are being trained in my environmental outreach education course to participate in the Take a Stand program by giving school presentations. The graduate students develop and deliver specialized interactive presentations using their scientific and educational presentation skills, and develop interactive, motivational and community-outreach activities for school students. They are essentially creating mini-conservation programs (that constitute educator resources) surrounding their specific research areas, such as coastal ecology, and the biology, ecology and conservation of various insects, plants and wildlife. They also compile local resources demonstrating what students can do to get involved. In the future, I envision a practicum for graduate students in which they could facilitate a broad range of youth activities, including youth-directed websites, youth coalitions, community activities, communications with government officials, and writing articles.

Take a Stand has also partnered with several community organizations (Surfrider, Stanley Park Ecology Society, Wilderness Committee, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Pacific Wild, Environmental Youth Alliance, and Sierra Club BC). This really provides a wealth of opportunities for school students to undertake conservation activities or innovative initiatives in their local communities.

As well, we have had considerable support from SFU’s Faculty of Environment, through the Pacific Water Research Centre, which has provided in-kind support and facilitation, and from the retired director of the former Centre for Coastal Science and Management, Pat Gallaugher.

Q: Is there a contest this year?

A: Yes. The Community Innovation Contest deadline is April 30, 2017.

We are very excited about the youth entries. Our 2016 contest led to multiple “passion” projects connected to cleaning up creek beds, reducing plastic waste, sustainable logging, building a sustainable, seniors’ home facility, using electric vehicles, and developing tourism/boardwalks. Selected youth were recognized at our awards gala, invited to an annual school district board meeting, and were subsequently highlighted by the local press.

Iin 2015 Lucy Schick, a grade 9 student at Elphinstone Secondary School in Gibson's B.C., won first prize (a stand-up paddle board) in for her video contest entry, "Water," a public education video on the availability of fresh water resources within the context of climate change. To view the video: