Author Archives: Matt Warren

Ripple Effect Challenge


How much garbage can you fit inside a canoe without it sinking?
More than you might think! Check out these students in Manitoba who are determined to clean up the Sturgeon Creek and have a fun day on the water!

California!! Are you up for a Ripple Effect Challenge??


How many plastic water bottles do you throw out in a year? Emily Jackson from Alberta is making a difference in her school, one bottle at a time.

The Caring for our Watersheds Ripple Effect Challenge is off to Manitoba next!


Kaylee and Rebecca are Calgary, Alberta students, and they are improving their local watershed by providing free mulch to their community. Using mulch benefits gardens while also conserving water and decreasing the use of pesticides and herbicides.

California, you’ve been challenged!


Haylee and Emelie from Greeley, Colorado took up the challenge to improve their watershed. They built a rain garden at their school because it helps decrease pollution from run-off and keeps sediment out of their water system.

What can you do to create a positive impact on your watershed Saskatchewan?



Say hi to Julia and Jasmine from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan! These girls took action in their watershed by creating Squeaky Green, an organic and Triclosan free bathroom products to reduce the levels of Triclosan in the watershed. They also offer a wonderful recipe book that teaches students the problems with Triclosan and how to make their own Squeaky Green!

Download the Squeaky Green Recipe Book

What can you do to improve your watershed Colorado?



Did you know that excessive use of pesticides can have harmful affects on your watershed? Erin from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, realized this took the challenge to improve her local watershed. She improved her watershed by creating bat boxes to lessen the bug population and to educate students about the watershed and bats within it.

What can you do to improve your watershed Alberta?



Meet Mia and Brooklyn from Ponoka, Alberta, improved their local watershed by putting up bird boxes in two of their local golf courses. The bird boxes will help attract more birds, who will help keep the insect population in check. With less insects, the golf courses won’t have to use as many pesticides, keeping them out of their watershed!

What can you do to improve your watershed Colorado?



Ana from Greeley, Colorado, improved her watershed by putting up bat boxes in her area. These bat boxes will give bats a safe place to stay. The bats will reduce the amount of insects in the area naturally, rather than having to rely on pesticides, which can make their way into the local watershed.

What can you do to improve your watershed Manitoba?



This Manitoba student is improving her watershed one fingernail at a time. Virginia, are you up to the Ripple Effect Challenge?

International Rain Barrel Giveaway

image1-2Rain barrels are designed to collect water, but one distinctive rain barrel designed by students at Daysland School in central Alberta is garnering just as much attention as it is water.

Butterflies, toads, dragonflies and other flora and fauna help depict a healthy watershed on a rain barrel designed by 20 students from grades five to 12 at Daysland School. It also helped the classroom win $1,000 through an international rain barrel giveaway and art contest sponsored by Agrium’s Caring for our Watersheds (“CFW”) program.

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Soil Microbial Health – The Affect of Soil Amendments on Soil Respiration

2012 Loveland, Colorado, USA
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Benjamin Hoyer from Resurrection Christian High School explains that Aldo Leopold said in Sand County Almanac: “What conservation education must build is an ethical underpinning for land economics and a universal curiosity to understand the land mechanism.” Hoyer’s solution was to develop a soils lab module which allows students to connect to their land and water and to further student conservation education. The lab module includes information on soil characteristics, a soils analysis lab, and age appropriate supplemental readings.

“By developing and distributing this lab module students will have the opportunity to become stewards, engaging as citizens in their watershed and building an understanding for their soil.”
-Ben Hoyer

The student module and materials were completed and delivered to the Poudre Learning Center (PLC) for teachers to use during the school school year. The PLC staff said that they had over 14,000 students visit them last year. Hoyer’s hope is that the teachers will consider using the module with their students.

Waste Not, Wash a Lot

2012 Greeley, Colorado, USA
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Amanda Cary, Anna Harkabus, and Alexis Gerk Cindy Keesis, AP Environmental Science Instructor MaryAnn Murphy, Mentor, Poudre Learning Center.

Their solution to the huge Styrofoam problem is to replace the toxic Styrofoam plates that are used at the school each day for lunch with plastic trays that can be used over and over again. The reusable plates will be washed each day in a sanitation system already located in the school’s kitchen. Although additional water use is necessary for the implementation of the project, such adverse environmental impact is minor compared to the effects of polystyrene plates.

Helmut Sihler once said that, “The environment is too important to be left to the environmentalists.”

“We are excited that each and every student at Northridge will be able to take a step toward protecting our watershed.” States Lexi Gerk.

Working the Nutrition Leaders in the cafeteria, the students’ ordered 500 reusable trays. They also ordered tray racks to hold the trays in the washing process.

The total cost of the implementation is $3236.32 to purchase the trays and the racks. Thank you to Agrium and the school district for helping fund this project.

Waste Wise

2012 Greeley, Colorado, USA
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Lila Dong and Faith Sears, sophomores, won eighth place in 2012 Caring for our Watersheds (CFW) Colorado competition finals. Afterwards, Agrium donated $1,000 to implement their idea.

Dong and Sears had the idea to implement a composting program at their high school. Although the original proposal had to be altered before the finals, the idea re-implemented a program in the high school that had previously been benefiting the environment and community through food waste recycling. The original program had to be cancelled when the composting company closed. In time for the CFW finals, Dong and Sears had already made contact with a long established composting company, and secured support from the school administration and student body for the composting program.

Dong and Sears is working with A1 Organics, a well-established composting company in Colorado along with Agrium and its’ community partners.

A1 Organics has provided a composting bin for Union Colony Schools, in which middle and high schoolers will recycle their food waste. Biweekly, the company will pick up the compost. This program will be in place for the entirety of the 2012-2013 school year. It will be completed in May 2013; however, through the terra-cycling program at Union Colony, it is hopeful that the composting program will continue to have funding for the following years.

Dong has commented on the project, “Composting allows us to use specific things such as food that will help the watershed and even nature by giving nutrients for plants instead of just wasting it by throwing it away in the trash.”

Partnered and Prepared

2012 Crystal City, Manitoba, Canada
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Jayden Dobson and Daria Hildebrand from Thomas Greenway Middle School proposed a project focused on partnership and education. They wanted to improve and maintain drinking water quality throughout the Pembina River Watershed by educating their community as they felt clean water is too often taken for granted. “People need to be educated on water issues in order to learn their part in being responsible as they learn to respect water”.
Their proposal was to create simple but effective signs identifying locations that are key drinking water areas while educating citizens about protecting our essential resource. The solution was achievable only if this duo could find the right partners within the community; and they did.

This project became a reality with parterships with the Pembina Valley Conservation District, the town of Pilot Mound, as well as Ducks Unlimited Canada. Agrium provided $400 for the purchase of the sign and the Conservation District provided the installation.

Hand Sanitizer and our Watershed

2012 Greeley, Colorado, USA
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The students’ originally proposed to replace the soap dispensers in every bathroom with a dispenser of hand sanitizer, which would save time, trees, and reduce water consumption. By using hand sanitizer the students at the school would be saving paper towels, soap, and money. During the implementation of the proposal the students’ discovered recent research that suggests that the manufacturers of hand sanitizers claim that the sanitizers kill 99.9 percent of germs and this may not actually be the case. The students’ also found that the Food and Drug Administration recommends that hand sanitizers not be used in place of soap and water but only as an adjunct. It also recommends that to properly sanitize the hands, soap and water should be used; a hand sanitizer cannot and should not take the place of proper cleansing procedures with soap and water.

Based on their research, the students’ changed their search to finding a hospital-grade hand sanitizer that is triclosan-free (which has been found to alter hormone regulation in lab animals or cause antibiotic resistance). So, instead of replacing soap in the restrooms they are now placing the triclosan-free, hospital-grade hand sanitizer in the cafeteria at the head of the food line. At that point students will be able to enter the food area with germ-free hands. This means that the installed bio-based hand sanitizer will contribute not only to a cleaner and more economical school site, but also a more environmentally safe school for our students. Thanks to Agrium for their donation of $698.00 to implement our solution.

“By keeping the chemicals out of our watershed we not only help our own area but all of those downstream of us.” Mayra & Sam

Rooftop Gardens

2012 Berthoud, Colorado, USA
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Alex Liebman is a senior at Berthoud High School. She placed 4th at the Northern Colorado watershed contest with her project to implement rooftop gardens on the schools in the Northern Colorado area. The gardens will serve as insulation for the school, reduce water runoff that could potentially be polluted, lower erosion levels, and provide a learning experience for students at the schools.

rooftop-2The garden consists of a square foot section of the roof that is covered with plants that will greatly benefit from the rain water that would otherwise be directed into the gutters, and sent into the school parking lots where the water will mix with possible toxins that could potentially be harmful to the watershed. Berthoud High School will serve as the pilot project.

Green Roofs of Colorado, LLC the company that installed the rooftop garden on top of the EPA building in Denver, Colorado, (photo to the right) will use Berthoud as a referral to have additional schools in the area also install a green roof.

“I am extremely thankful to Agrium for their donation of $1,008.60 to implement the project from the estimated cost budget.” Says Alex.

Riparian Repair

2012 Virden, Manitoba, Canada
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Chelsi Malach is a passionate student who wanted to improve a local wetland called Eternal Springs, located east of the town of Virden. Along with local community members enjoying the site, this area is also used to teach younger students about the importance of watersheds and wetland conservation.

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While volunteering at the site as an educator, she observed severe bank erosion following the spring flood. There is also an increase in invasive species such as Purple loosestrife.

Her proposal was twofold: to create a buffer zone along the bank by planting a diversity of vegetation, and to assess the invasive species on the site. This would be followed up by manual removal and monitoring.

Chelsi partnered with the Upper Assiniboine Conservation district for their expertise and assistance. As well, the grade 12 biology class participated both in the removal of the invasive species and planting of local vegetation to stabilize the stream back. Her passion enthusiasm for this project has now been shared with the school and community.

The Caring for our Watersheds contest provided Chelsi with over $3,500 to make this ambitious project a reality.

Bottled Water – No More

2012 Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
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Transcona Collegiate student, Lloyd Flores, conducted research and came up with a solution to a problem he observed in his school. There were a large number of plastic water bottles used by the students on a daily basis and he wondered why. He therefore conducted a student survey and discovered it was the state of the water fountains (rusty, broken) that was deterring students from using them.

Lloyd proposed that by updating the fountains in his school and adding a spout to encourage the use of reusable bottles, this would significantly reduce the waste generated by the bottles. As an International student, Lloyd was extremely nervous about presenting his project in front of an audience, particularly because they included judges. He felt his English was not strong enough. With some encouragement and practice, Lloyd felt more comfortable and earned and 8th position in the contest along with generous support from Agrium ($4220) to upgrade the fountains in his school.

Lloyd also told us learned a lesson in patience as it took over a year for the project to be implemented due to logistical problems at the school. He is excited about the fact he was able to initiate a plan for his peers. Feedback from the students at Transcona Collegiate has been extremely positive!