When Kieryn Matthews makes up her mind to do something, she is not easily discouraged.
Last fall, she took an idea planted by a former Wellington Secondary School student for establishing a “green” wall – a wall of living plants – at the school and brought a modified version of this idea to fruition despite some challenges.
When Matthews proposed a six-metre green wall across the front of the school, district officials suggested she scale back the project because they were worried that the project was too ambitious and would be subject to vandalism.
Instead of giving up, Matthews went back to the drawing board and came up with a proposal to build a green wall and aquaponics system in the inner courtyard. Aquaponics is a sustainable food production system that combines growing fish with growing vegetables.
The system uses less energy and water than growing plants the traditional way and acts as a natural insulator for the wall.
“This is such an important system that we need to be learning about,” said Matthews. “It’s teaching kids about food security and eco-systems.”
She’s devoted numerous hours to educating her peers about environmental issues.
Matthews founded an environmental club at her school after doing stream rehabilitation and invasive plant removal work with local biologist Charles Thirkill.
Through the club, she got her peers involved with beach cleanups, stream surveys and fish counts in a park near the school.
Her school and community involvement extend well beyond environmental initiatives, partly due to an injury that sidelined her synchronized swimming activities – she swam with the Nanaimo Diamonds and was training for a national competition when she had to quit.
In school, Matthews was heavily involved with student council and outside of school, she volunteered at numerous city-sponsored events and kids camps.
She heads to Vancouver Island University in the fall. Her goal is to make a career out of helping to create a more sustainable future, perhaps as an environmental consultant, and she wants to transfer to Simon Fraser University’s new faculty of environment department.