The day that I found out that I won the EduTOX Video Challenge, I screamed. A $1400 scholarship and a trip to Ottawa? What an opportunity!
In early June, my family and I travelled to Ottawa to attend the World’s Largest Sandbox Event! The event, which takes place on Sparks Street in downtown Ottawa, allows parliamentarians, non-profit organizations, and local kids to come together to raise awareness of the health of Canadian children. When I arrived, I checked in at the Pollution Probe tent, where I met Michelle Briere, Dr. Eric Crighton from the University of Ottawa, and several other amazing people involved in EduTOX, The Sandbox Project, and Pollution Probe. Previously, I had only corresponded with Michelle and Eric via email, and it was nice to finally meet the team in person! They were definitely a high energy, passionate, and inspiring group of people!
Without a doubt, the highlight of the event was the sandcastle building competition. We held our own as Team EduTOX Video Challenge, placing 3rd overall! As a group, we decided to create a sandcastle depicting a healthy community, with opportunities for physical activity, education, and green spaces. The community was built around a central mound that represented a mountain, with hiking trails going up the side. Tiny castles formed houses that were grouped into neighbourhoods, framed by paper palm trees in each yard. Behind the mountain, there was a community garden, made up of miniature rocks and leaf fragments lined up in rows. Not only was the “castle” cute, but it portrayed a perfect, sustainable community. Definitely a sand-production with meaning and applicability in the real world.
That being said, the competitive element wasn't the main focus of the sandcastles. In the midst of activists and Members of Parliament were local school kids, playing in the sand and staring curiously at the colourful stands and displays around them. In today's world, it is imperative that children and teens are educated about environmental and health issues, so that our generation is well-equipped to face these issues in the future. Perhaps, the children were the most important people in attendance.
While I was helping to build the sandcastle, I also met several MPs from ridings all over Canada! These parliamentarians, including Angelo Iacono, Mike Lake, Rachael Harder, and many more, were all extremely friendly and interesting, and I was thrilled to have had the chance to speak with them. In particular, I met MP Kellie Leitch, who founded the Sandbox Project. After chatting with her about my EduTOX video, Dr. Leitch asked to interview me for her Facebook page. In the interview, I explained the importance of young people becoming aware of climate issues and making an effort to become more eco-conscious in everyday life. I’ve never been interviewed before, and although I was very nervous, it was truly an occasion to remember!