Imagining the Rural Schools of 2050: Vision, Strategy, and Action for an Age of Perpetual Transition

Dr. Ken Coates is Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan.  His work focuses on the development of strategies to promote 21st-century well-being in small town, rural, Indigenous and remote Canada. Ken's major project examines the potential contributions -- and negative impacts -- of emerging technologies on rural and remote communities.  He has a long-standing interest in rural education and post-secondary education.

Dr. Ken Coates

Lacombe Student Presentation

Ecole Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School’s EcoVision is an environmental club where students’ dreams become reality. Students have become empowered to become ecological leaders through projects that benefit their environment, enhance their education and encourage community collaboration. The EcoVision students at Lacombe Composite High School have organized projects over the past 15 years that have seen solar panels installed on the school roof, a geodesic energy efficient tropical greenhouse built, a two acre garden developed and a unique urban beekeeping program incorporated into the curriculum. Whether it’s feeding compost worms, raising tilapia fish, harvesting honey or building a goat sanctuary — come and discover how EcoVision’s projects have left an impact on students, their school and the community.  Mr. Steven Schultz is the teacher at Ecole Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School. 

Healthy Students - The Ripple Effect: Sleep, Eat, Move, and Think Better for Exponential Health and Performance

In high performance business situations, the human mind and body have to work together for ultimate results. Dr. Greg Wells is a health and high performance expert who, as a scientist and physiologist, has dedicated his career to making the science of human limits understandable and actionable. In his informative and engaging keynotes, Wells draws parallels between elite athletes and top executives to help business leaders perform at the highest level, even when under the most extreme circumstances.

For more than 25 years, Wells has worked with some of the highest-performing individuals on the planet, including Olympic and World champions, as well as organizations ranging from General Electric to BMO, Deloitte, KPMG, BMW, Audi, Sysco Foods, YPO, and Air Canada. He is also committed to inspiring children and young adults through his close working relationship with several school boards and independent schools.

A veteran endurance athlete himself, Wells has participated in the grueling Nanisivik Marathon 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle; Ironman Canada; and the Tour D’Afrique, an 11,000 km cycling race that is the longest in the world. He is also a travel and expedition adventurer who has journeyed through every imaginable terrain and conditions in more than 50 countries.

Wells is the author of three bestselling books: Superbodies, The Ripple Effect, and The Focus Effect. He also hosted the award-winning Superbodies series, which aired on Olympic broadcasts worldwide in 2010 and 2012. As a speaker, Wells has travelled the world speaking at events such as TEDx and The Titan Summit, and has shared the stage with Robin Sharma, Richard Branson, Steve Wozniak, and Deepak Chopra.

Wells has a PhD in Physiology, served as an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Toronto, and is currently a senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He is also the CEO and founder of Wells Performance, a global consulting firm committed to achieving the moonshot of helping teams, schools, and businesses become places where people get healthy, perform optimally, and reach their potential.

Dr. Greg Wells

Rural Youth, Mental Health and Education: Building Agency in Young Adults

Educators, service providers and health professionals are increasingly aware of the tidal wave of mental health concerns present in rural communities. For children and youth, anxiety is the most common mental health concern, yet depression and stress are also factors. Recognizing and engaging with mental health concerns early is a critical intervention, as 70% of mental illnesses that persist in adulthood started in childhood or youth, yet diagnosis and treatment rates are poor. This is a compounding factor for rural citizens, who demonstrate the same rates as their urban counterparts but are far less likely to see treatment. For rural youth, challenges of self-esteem, social displacement, challenges with time management and the stigma of needing help have all been identified as risk factors for mental health, and for Indigenous youth and LGBTQ2A+ youth, these factors are further amplified. 

This presentation examines the functional challenges of youth mental health, and draws from the results of 3 different studies conducted by the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities to better understand the causal pathways to mental health, the prevalence of mental health issues in rural youth, and the opportunities or skills needed for developing and maintaining mental health resilience. Using data collected from students at a rural post-secondary institution (the Augustana Campus of the UofAlberta) and rural high schools, we examine the range of mental health issues facing young rural Albertans, and then draw from an adapted art directive (Carpendale 2009) to identify agency as a core issue for rural youth that is manifested through both micro (individual)-level themes as well as macro (structural) themes. The data also reflect youth knowledge and awareness of positive and healthy coping skills and structure, as well as a default to less positive management strategies. The presentation concludes with an examination of the wealth of interventions available, with a particular emphasis upon school and art-based programming, literacy initiatives, lifestyle changes and strategies for youth as they transition to adulthood. 

Dr. Lars Hallstrom

The Ties That Bind: "Community" as Assumed and Lived in Rural School Contexts

Rural schools tend to be romanticized as close knit spaces where community thrives.  The close ties in rural contexts certainly do hold people together, but the seamlessness between schools and the external community in rural spaces makes "community" fantastically complex.  Based on a study of rural secondary schools in northern Alberta funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, this presentation will share insights into parents' sense (or lack) of community in their secondary schools, and consider the implications for larger rural community work. 

Dr. Bonnie L. Stelmach

Global Trends in Education

Lee Watanabe-Crockett is an optimist. He believes in a bright future and our ability to build it

together through connection and compassion.


Lee works with governments, education systems, international agencies and corporations to

help people and organisations connect to their highest purpose and realise their wish for the



Lee believes in creating balance in the reality of a digital present and future. As such, living in

Japan, he studies Buddhism as a member of Tao Sangha Wada Ji Temple, as well as Aikido,

and the Shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese bamboo flute.


Joyful curiosity is the foundation of his approach to creating vital learning environments for

groups around the world through the two organisations he has founded, the Global Digital Citizen

Foundation, and Wabisabi Learning.


His several best-selling books including Growing Global Digital Citizens, Mindful

Assessment and Future-Focused Learning, have garnered many awards and are used in

schools and universities around the world.

Lee Crockett

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