2017, MILK RIVER, AB, CANADA
In 2017, Robin Stelten and Brooke Johnston of Erle Rivers High School in Milk River, Alberta implemented their 2015/2016 project “Hawk Nesting Platforms”. Robin and Brooke were concerned about the impact of rodenticides on local raptor populations and wanted to encourage local farmers to decrease the use of rodenticides, instead relying on raptors to control gopher and ground squirrel populations.
When rodenticides are used as a method of pest control, they can often be ingested by predators such as hawks, and be passed up the food chain, leading to bioaccumulation and often death. Second generation rodenticides are widely used in Canada and the USA and are particularly dangerous in the case of accidental ingestion by children, pets and wildlife.
In an effort to encourage raptors to nest in local rural communities, Brooke and Robin enlisted the help of Fortis Alberta to install hawk nesting platforms. In conjunction with education provided to the local community, Brooke and Robin were able to install six hawk nesting platforms just outside their community of Milk River, Alberta. Since the installation of these platforms, hawks have been seen hunting off two of the platforms. It is hoped that raptors will use these structures to nest during the 2017 nesting season.
As the area around Milk River encompasses the nesting and breeding habitat of ferruginous hawks (Buteo regalis), a species considered ‘At Risk’ in Alberta, the efforts of these students to increase the local population of this particular raptor species is especially commendable.
2017, Sacramento, CA
For her Caring for Our Watersheds project, Clarissa Huerta, of the MET Sacramento High School, wanted to work with students from the Mustard Seed School, a private school established to help meet the needs of homeless children. When Clarissa visited, she noticed they had a garden area, but did not yet have a compost system. Clarissa’s proposal included the addition of a compost bin to the facility, but also a lesson for the students to teach them the environmental benefits of composting and how to use the bin. Clarissa met with different age groups to share about composting, give students practice using and maintaining the bin, and to meet the wiggly worm friends inside that will help decompose the food scraps and provide free, nutrient rich soil to the school’s and shelter’s garden. Clarissa pointed out, that even at a homeless shelter, there is still substantial food waste. The compost bin would also help decrease the amount of food waste sent to the local landfill. Nutrien project funds helped Clarissa purchase the bin and provide supporting materials for the lesson.
2017, Sacramento, CA
Henry McKay, a student at the G.W. Carver School of Arts and Sciences built and installed a small Aquaponics system on his school’s campus to demonstrate a sustainable, water-wise system to produce food. Aquaponics, which combines the raising of fish with the growing of plants in water, uses substantially less water than traditional growing, as water and nutrients are recycled. There is already a robust garden/ farm at Carver School of Arts and Sciences in which students plant, maintain, harvest, and learn about food system production and processes. The Aquaponics system, which was designed to run off of solar power, is a great addition to the campus and garden, demonstrating an additional technique, and expanding and extending this learning to future cohorts of students at the school. Caring for Our Watersheds project funds helped Henry purchase the materials he needed to build the system.
2017, Sacramento, CA
Mianna Muscat, of the MET Sacramento, has been involved in several previous Caring for Our Watersheds projects, including tree plantings and park clean-ups. This year, her focus was on expanding watershed education for her classmates. She wanted to find a way to engage students outside the classroom, educate them on the processes that provide water for the state, and connect them with nature. Mianna proposed a trip to the Headwaters Science Institute, during which students learn about the snowpack driven water cycle, how albedo affects rates of snowmelt, and methods scientists use to track the snowpack which makes up much of California’s water. Mianna’s proposal and implementation funds from Nutrien helped all 30 students in class to attend the trip and get this hands-on field experience in the area of Water Science and Management
2017, Sacramento, CA
MET Sacramento High School student Noah Crockett has a passion for entomology and a specific interest in pollinators. Over the past years, he has been interning at the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology and has learned a great deal about the threats to pollinators. Crockett’s project this year focused on providing nest sites for two specific native pollinators, the Mason Bee and Leafcutter Bee (family: Megachilidae). While these bees do not produce honey they are still beneficial for gardens; they are amongst the most productive pollinators and are able to access much smaller flowers than honeybees and bumblebees. Crockett built a dozen bee boxes and distributed them to property owners along the American River. He included instructions on how and where to hang the boxes, as well as seeds for spring flowers to provide additional nectar sources for the bees.
2016, Sacramento, CA
Justin Yu, of the MET Sacramento High School successfully worked with his school’s facilities maintenance staff to install a water filtration system on campus. This project was a follow-up to his previous project, in which he provided reusable water bottles to his classmates and delivered a presentation on the negative effects single-use plastic bottles have on the environment, and the benefits of reusable bottles. While many of the students used the bottles, some would still bring plastic bottles claiming they did it not for convenience, but for water quality issues. Providing the water filtration system would provide clean, filtered water to students, and encourage reusable bottle use—a win- win for their health, thirst, and the environment. According to the counter on the unit, within a month of installation, they had already saved 1400 water bottles!
2015, Sacramento, CA
When Salma Rosas, of the MET Sacramento High School, was asked how she could “improve her watershed”, she decided to focus on habitat for birds, specifically cavity nesting species such as bluebirds and swallows. Salma learned that in the urban environment of Sacramento, many old, dead trees that would have provided natural cavities for nests for these birds have been removed due to their hazardous and/ or unsightly nature. While this is often necessary for safety, it decreases available habitat. To increase suitable nest sites, Salma decided to build bird boxes and install them at school and at a neighborhood park. Caring for Our Watersheds project implementation funds help her buy wood and supplies to build these boxes
2017, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Luke Roffey from Westwood Collegiate is passionate about the creek near his home. “Sturgeon Creek provides vital habitat for many species of birds, mammals, amphibians, and fish, and it’s a critical piece of nature in an otherwise urbanized landscape.” He proposed an underwater cleanup with his peers using canoes and litter removal equipment.
“An underwater litter removal project has never been done in Sturgeon Creek before, and judging by the amount of garbage Westwood students remove from the banks of the creek each year, there is likely a lot of garbage under the surface that needs to be cleaned up. Removing garbage from an aquatic ecosystem such as a stream greatly increases the quality of the habitat for wildlife. Gone are hazards that can cause injury and entanglement for animals. Removing floating and submerged garbage will dramatically increase not only the natural beauty of the park, but also the functionality of the ecosystem.
Many people, especially youth, have become very disconnected with the environment, and participating in my project will allow them to reconnect with nature. Canoeing in particular can be very therapeutic, thus by participating in my project students will not only be bettering their local watershed, but also bettering themselves.”
Upon hearing of the project, a local company “Wilderness Supply” offered to loan all of the equipment free of charge. During the cleanup, students engaged with passerby’s explaining their project and the importance to the watershed. It was a great day they now hope to repeat on an annual basis.
2017, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Hunter Watson and Alyssa Lee from Westwood Collegiate came up with one of the most unique projects seen to date. They chose to look at Watershed Awareness through Dance with spectacular evening including dance, watershed information booths, and guest speakers from watershed community partners.
“As students who are very involved in the arts in school and around the community, immediately we were reminded of how often we are told about how much dance can have an impact on people. That thought gave us the idea to create a dance show with every dance revolving around water and our watersheds. The damages we have done to it, the beauty it has, and how important it is to preserve it.
Each dance will have images projected on the screen that will help to enhance the dance and its meaning. Some dances will deal with the pollution side to our effect on our watersheds, some will focus on how our watersheds could and should look like all reflecting behind the dancer.
Seeing the issues and solutions through dance, pictures and speakers that can range from high school students to well-known organizations will surely leave an impact on the audience. This is something that has never been done before but we are confident we can do this right.”
This event attracted over 200 participants and ended with a well-deserved standing ovation standing ovation.
2017 Cinncinnati, Ohio, USA
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.