By Maria Cordova
There is no doubt the pandemic was a tough thing to endure for most businesses. However, through hardship sometimes comes innovation and new opportunities, and that is the case of the Gaia Project. As a non-profit whose goals are energy literacy and inspiring climate action, the Gaia Project provides classroom support to teachers by helping them include climate change into their pedagogy. They go into schools in New Brunswick to provide hands-on learning opportunities for students; exploring issues around energy, waste, water, transportation and general sustainability.
The school closures due to COVID-19 meant the non-profit’s important work came to a halt, as they could no longer go to schools and interact with students. Jane Burchill—the communications manager at the Gaia Project—said that the pandemic was a big moment for them, and their initial reaction was shock, but also a sense of urgency. It was important for them to still be able to support teachers, students, and now, parents. The company had to change its business model and allocate their fund differently to adapt to the new normal, just like any other organization in New Brunswick. Since they are a non-profit, they had to work closely with their funders, and together, create a new action plan to still be able to reach students.
Instead of being discouraged, the team at The Gaia Project took the pandemic as an opportunity to explore new projects and ideas. “Since we were not in schools, we ended up having a lot more time in our hands to create online packages and videos we always dreamed of doing but we did not have the time to do.”
The Gaia Project moved all of their programs and activities online so that they could be accessed remotely. Instead of reaching out to students through the school, they reached out to them through parents who now had their kids learning from home. They created the Gaia’s Climate Quest for the month of April, daily climate conscious activities for students to work through with their parents at home. The program was very successful, it ended up reaching about 800 families. The team at Gaia designed the activities to be educational but also fun, as they wanted to give parents a break by making their children accomplish the activities while learning at home.
Jane stated that this coming fall when schools are in session everything will definitely look a lot different than the past, and they are not sure what their place will be in schools. Nonetheless, she is feeling optimistic. Jane and her team have been working hard to move all of their programs in remote delivery structures so they can keep working with teachers and students in the fall. They are planning to have new activities such as webinar services, but they have also created more videos and resources for teachers to use remotely with their help. The Gaia Project is an excellent example of resilience in Fredericton, as they took a difficult situation and turned it into an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.