Grade 9 students (from left to right) Erin Work, Lexie Pfenning, Annabelle Lee and Caitlin Mahony (not pictured) won first place in the Sustainable Development Challenge. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Grade 9 students (from left to right) Erin Work, Lexie Pfenning, Annabelle Lee and Caitlin Mahony (not pictured) won first place in the Sustainable Development Challenge. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Kelowna students take top prize with virtual dissection project

The group of Grade 9 students won $5,000 in prize money

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.

READ MORE: Kelowna students advocate for non animal dissections in biology class

Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at
Follow me on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Serving alcohol has been altered in the Central Okanagan Public Schools policy regarding rental of school facilities for after-school hours events. (Contributed)
Alcohol option opened up at Central Okanagan school facilities rented for events

Central Okanagan Board of Education retains final approval for after-hours event approvals

Voting day for the upcoming Central Okanagan Board of Education by-election is June 26. (Contributed)
Central Okanagan school board election set for June 26

Kelowna voters will go the polls to fill vacant Kelowna trustee seat

Two bikes that were stolen after a West Kelowna parking garage was looted on April 3. Photo: Crime Stoppers Central Okanagan
Parking garage looted in West Kelowna

A car was broken into and six storage lockers were ransacked

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Ford F-350s have been targeted in the North Okanagan by auto thieves since February 2021, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP data shows. (Gene J. Puskar - The Canadian Press/AP file)
Auto thieves target older Ford F-350s in Vernon: RCMP

Vernon Mounties remind all motorists no vehicle is immune to auto crime

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Most Read