A group of Grade 9 Kelowna students advocating for animal rights have placed first in a competition, netting $5,000 in prize money.
Our Voice For Change is made up of local students Erin Work, Lexie Pfenning, Annabelle Lee, Caitlin Mahony and Lucia Nutley.
The team is working with the Society for Humane Science and the Kelowna SPCA for a new way to dissect animals virtually, what they hail as more ethical, informative, and cost-effective.
Each member has been passionate about animal rights for a long time, saying that the Sustainable Development Challenge has given them the chance to stand up for what they believe in and show others an alternative way to learn.
The students pitched their idea on Feb. 24 at the finale of this year’s Sustainable Development Challenge, which gives Okanagan students a platform to talk about projects that will make an impact on the United Nation’s 17 Global Goals.
Their pitch earned them top prize, which the group said will go towards helping their project come to life. The funds will be used for apps, as well as other technologies like models to swap out real animal dissection.
Annabelle Lee said it was nerve-wracking to finally be able to present their idea to a wider audience.
“We’ve been preparing for (the competition) for quite a while and then all of a sudden, it was over,” she said.
“It happened a lot faster than what we were expecting.”
Erin Work said it was a fun experience and they are grateful for the opportunity and that they all have learned to come together as a group.
The group has said previously that non-animal dissection is a more effective learning tool than traditional animal dissection.
“It’s been proven that 88 per cent of students learn better using alternatives over actual animal dissections,” Lexie Pfenning said.
“These alternatives have been classroom-tested to give the same, and in many cases a better level, of education. It’s cost-effective, it’s ethical… it reduces our environmental footprint.”
The group said their next steps include implementing their project at their school, Okanagan Mission Secondary, and hopefully, work with other schools in the Central Okanagan School District to replace animal dissections or at least give students the option to try alternative dissection.
But overall, they said their hope is that other students will see the changes they too can make.
“(Students) can affect their own education. They do have a choice,” Lee said.
“We want to encourage youth to take a stand for what they believe in,” Pfenning said.
“You shouldn’t be forced into something you’re not comfortable with or that you don’t want to do, so we want to give you that voice in our project.”
For more information on what Our Voice For Change does, visit their website.