Lexi Meckes is a nanny for three kids after school and is always having to switch out old batteries in game systems. Through this experience she became aware of how many batteries were being tossed out. She started becoming more concerned about the problem as she researched the chemicals inside every single battery and began thinking about the impact these batteries have on our environment. As a senior at Sycamore High School she has been involved in Environmental Club, AP Environmental class, and engineering. With her background knowledge and interest she became motivated to help solve this problem.
When Lexi was introduced to the Caring For Our Watersheds project she knew right away that she wanted to work on a project concerning batteries. She saw a big problem in her community and figured out a simple, direct way she could improve this issue. For her Caring For Our Watersheds project, Lexi put in place a battery-recycling program in all the schools within the Sycamore School District. These pails are located in the front offices of all schools and have begun overflowing with all the donations from community residents. She hopes recycling batteries becomes just as routine as recycling paper and plastic. With this permanent project Lexi hopes to educate her community on the simple actions they can take to make a big difference.
After the project got started, the company changed their prices and it became too expensive to mail the filled buckets, so Lexi set up a meeting with a local recycling company to discuss where she can send or take the batteries to locally for recycling. Although Lexi has experienced a few bumps along the way, her project has definite staying power because of the broad community support and participation.
She hopes this project will grow into a citywide program and prevent thousands of batteries from ending up in the landfill.
Tori Lyon and Veronica France developed a project called Turning Trash into Treasure, focused on improving their watershed (the Mill Creek) by reducing the amount of plastic bags that end up as litter. The project consisted of two parts, phase one and phase two. They began their project by educating their school community through daily announcements informing classmates on the importance of keeping their local watershed clean and the detrimental effects of plastic bags on the environment. After kick-staring the education portion of their project, they started working on implementing phase one.
Phase one of the project consisted of collecting plastic bags from their school community and distributing reusable cloth bags to the students. Tori and Veronica set up a station in a busy hallway of the school where students could turn in their plastic bags. For every 25 plastic bags a student turned in, they received a custom made, reusable cloth bag. Inside each cloth bag was an informational flyer containing more facts about the Mill Creek watershed and the detrimental effects of plastic bags as litter. In order to keep track of how many bags were brought in, each student who donated plastic bags filled out a slip with their name, grade and number of bags brought in. This provided Tori and Veronica with an easy way to account for the bags donated. After they held a week-long bag collection event and distribution at school, they transitioned into phase two of the project in which they created sleeping mats out of the collected plastic bags.
Phase two started with a bag prepping party at which everyone folded, cut, and looped the plastic bags into balls of “yarn”. This ball of plastic yarn was then crocheted into sleeping mats that were donated to the homeless. They conducted significant amounts of research on how to properly crochet plastic sleeping mats, as well as the benefits of sleeping mats for those who are homeless. The mat weaving process was very time consuming and involved intricate work, so the students sought out the help of their school community for completing this part of our project.
They had an overwhelming response to their project! Tori and Veronica were hoping to collect about 2,000 plastic bags, but received over 17,000 plastic bags. Since this was such a great number of bags, they are planning on donating the extra bags to Matthew 25 Ministries where groups of volunteers work to complete similar projects. They will continue to make mats until the end of the year.
Their project reached a large scope, and they were able to help improve the condition of our watershed.
When faced with the challenge to improve her local watershed, Annie Smith thought of her school drinking water fountains. Her school is very old and while it has been remodeled several times, it seems several of the drinking fountains never got updated. So she developed a project she called the “Hydration Station.” It all started when she saw the enormous amounts of plastic water bottles being thrown away at her school. Her idea was to start the process of installing automatic water bottle refill stations around the school in order to reduce the number of plastic water bottles that Oak Hills High School throws away every single day.
Annie worked with the Caring For Our Watersheds staff, her mentors, teachers and Winnsupply company in Fairfield to acquire two water fountains to be installed in the school. Maintenance staff installed the first fountain (pictured below) in one of the main hallways within the school in order to maximize the usage of the fountain. After less than a week of being installed, the water fountain had already saved 395 water bottles, a number that will hopefully continue growing. That’s right, almost 400 bottles in just one week.
Annie graduated just after the CFW finals, but in the future she hopes to revisit the school and see how many water bottles have been saved. She hopes to take this newly collected data and propose that all the water fountains at Oak Hills High School be replaced with new water bottle filling stations. If this is successful, she plans on reaching out to the superintendent and proposing that all old water fountains in the district be replaced with new water bottle filling stations. She also hopes to work with the Oak Hills “Spirit Shop”, or book store, to get reusable water bottles with the Oak Hills logo on them, to be purchased and used by students and staff at the water fountains. The janitors had some issues with the ‘old’ plumbing, but they were able to build a frame to mount the new filling station. Persistence pays off.
Jacob’s big project is a coloring book for kids developed and designed by Molly Mariani, Abi Barret and Ashley Moher. The coloring book has several interactive pages that gets students of all ages involved in the conservation message. Along with the book, Ashley, Molly and Abi designed several worksheets for different age children. The one for younger students has pictures and the kids describe whether it’s helpful or harmful. The worksheets for older kids include a vocabulary sheet.
The team knew from the start that they wanted to do a project that involved younger students. They didn’t just want to design a book, so they thought if they made it more interactive, they could get younger students to understand their role in protecting the environment. Designing a coloring book that the younger students could color on was one way the girls could get the students more involved. They also made a change to their original plan by adding the interactive worksheets so that they could measure the students understanding of the problems and test their knowledge. The addition really boosted their project because it allowed them to measure their success through the kid’s ability to complete the activity worksheets.
To implement their project, Ashley, Molly and Abi visited local schools, which included a preschool and an elementary school. For the preschoolers, they read the book aloud to them then the preschoolers completed the “helpful or harmful” activity. For the elementary school visit, the kids read along with the story and colored the book. After the book was finished, they completed the vocab sheet to apply their knowledge.
2014 Wyoming, Ohio, USA The Mill Creek is in the southwest corner of Ohio and empties into the Ohio River. It flows 28.4 miles through three different counties and about half a million people live within the watershed. It is mainly urban and industrial with some forested and agricultural lands located in the northern section. The Mill Creek also has many CSOs (combined sewer overflows) and SSOs (sanitary sewer overflows).
Thermal pollution is a problem in many of our urban streams, especially in the Mill Creek, that often flies under the radar. While thermal pollution doesn’t involve dumping massive amounts of chemicals into the rivers or many other signs that people generally associate with pollution, the heating and cooling of natural waterways (whether directly or indirectly caused by people) can have a bigger effect on wildlife ecosystems than people think.
Benny and Isabelle felt that they could do their part to reduce thermal pollution when it happens in a localized setting, such as when water temperature of creeks and streams rises due to lack of shading and foliage. Their solution was to plant trees along the banks of the North Branch of the Mill Creek. They felt it was an easy solution to tackle the problem of thermal pollution in local streams.
Benny and Isabelle put their project into action on May 10th, 2014. They had an excellent group of volunteers of both students and community members come out and help. Together they planted about 600 trees in about 3 hours. The areas where they planted were alongside a local stretch of the North Brach of the Mill Creek that was in need of restoration. It was a great time to be social and meet new people while helping out their watershed. Over all, they thought this was a very fun and education experience for them and they were honored to be offered such a wonderful opportunity.
Rain 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.
A group of three students (Julia Love, Janae McClair and Sanoma Capps) who attend Arlington heights Academy submitted a proposal called “A Rain Garden for I-75 Runoff” to Agrium’s Caring for our Watersheds contest during the first Ohio competition in 2011-2012. They came in first place!
After the final competition, they met with Wes Duran from Marvin’s Organic Gardens in the fall of 2012 to design and plan implementation of their rain garden. Students worked on determining the plant types, plant numbers and design layout. They also worked on the budget and set a date to start planting. Their budget was $2,00 with one half coming from Agrium’s grant the students won and the other half a matching grant from Groundwork Cincinnati – Mill Creek, a local non-profit group dedicated to the restoration of the Mill Creek. The date they chose to plant the garden was March 21st, 2013.
Before the studetn’s knew it, it was March and time to plant. It didn’t take long to complete the project that they had been anxiously waiting for; to have their proposal become a reality. With the help of their classmates and the support from their community, the rain garden was completed!
This is a perfect example of how one idea can truly make a difference through hard work and determination. Though the work is done and students will graduate and move on, the teachers and community will continue to care for the rain garden. For instance, they will be responsible for watering the rain garden in the summer and make sure the plants are thriving. Any dead plants will be replaced to maintain the design and function of the garden.