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Supporting Wild Canadian Bees

2021, Calgary, AB, Canada

Protecting our native bee population is something that can have lasting positive effects on our way of life, and no one knows this better than Aisling, a grade 9 student at St. James School in Calgary, Alberta. Aisling had a growing concern for the local bees and pollinators in her schoolyard after realizing that bee habitat was lacking. This inspired her project to create biodiverse pollinator gardens at her school, to complement the existing bee hotels and native gardens.

While pollinator garden projects were started at St. James School in the past, Aisling was determined to improve them by planting various native wildflower species to attract local bees and other effective pollinators. In doing so, these bees would have healthy habitat to live in and pollinate, and, with a bit of luck, allowing their population to grow. She and her fellow students hope that the increase in pollinator habitat and populations will have a positive impact on the natural areas in her school and community.  These environmentally conscientious initiatives will subsequently benefit the greater watershed, and improve life on land for all.

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Pathways to Save our Natural Areas

2021, Calgary, AB, Canada

In 2021, Christian, a grade 9 student at St. James School in Calgary, Alberta noticed that the naturalized areas at his school were being damaged by young children playing in and running through them, and he realized that the low-lying plants in these areas would die unless something was done.

Christian understood that the natural areas in his school and community help combat climate change by removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and therefore they needed protection. Christian decided to spring into action with his project to install stone pathways throughout these natural areas to prevent further damage by the younger students at his school. In doing so, these areas would have marked pathways so that kids can continue to enjoy the space while also protecting the growing flowers and shrubs. St. James School supported his project fully, and working with his fellow students and teachers, Christian and his classmates successfully installed various stone pathways throughout their schoolyard gardens.

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Fast-Growing Dense Mini Forest

2021, Calgary, AB, Canada

When Will, a grade 9 student from St. James School in Calgary, Alberta learned that road transportation produces a majority of CO2 emissions in Canada, he decided to take action with his “Fast-Growing Dense Mini Forest” project. Noticing that his school lacked natural green space, and acknowledging his school’s proximity to two major highways, Will proposed a plan to improve his school’s native gardens by planting more fast-growing and resilient trees and shrubs to help combat CO2 emissions while also restoring biodiversity.

Will’s research into these miniature forests showed that they can grow 10 times faster and become 30 times denser than a traditionally planted forest. Additionally, these mini-forests can absorb significantly more carbon while creating prime, natural habitat that could attract hundreds of wildlife species. With this in mind, Will proposed the planting of dozens of tree and shrub saplings in a small area of his school yard in an effort to fight climate change and improve life on land.

His project gained outstanding support from his school and community. St. James School is a long-time CFOW participant that have spearheaded multiple initiatives, including running their own composting program (which is being enhanced to involve more students). Will and many of his fellow classmates began to take action. Students have already planted over 100 tree saplings and seeds in their school yard, and have been watering, weeding, replacing mulch, and repairing their natural area in hopes to establish their very own miniature urban forest. Will’s project has allowed his community to learn more about their environment and watershed, and they hope to inspire more schools to follow suit and plant more native vegetation in their schoolyard to support our urban ecosystems.

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Mountain Bluebird Bird Boxes

2021, Calgary, AB, Canada

Jessica, Sage, and Zoee, grade 8 students from Cardston Junior High School in Cardston, Alberta looked to help bird populations in their community, their county, and the Oldman Watershed.  After speaking with Parks Canada, they researched a lesser known native species, the Mountain Bluebird, which relies upon the Oldman Watershed in the area.  These small, colourful birds are declining due to habitat loss and increase competition with other birds like sparrows and starlings.  Jessica, Safe, and Zoee decided to take action by working with the Mountain Bluebird Trails Conservation Society in Lethbridge, and planning, building, and donating wooden bird boxes to help some of these birds.

Jessica, Sage, and Zoee worked with a local hardware store to prepare the materials, and educated their classmates on native bird species throughout the process.  They garnered the support of their teacher, principal, siblings, and parents in the school community to help out with various aspects of the project, such as transporting supplies and cutting the wood.  All four grade 8 classes were involved in learning about the bird boxes, as well as assisting with the construction of them.  These three organized everything into kits, taught other students how to construct them, and delivered the bird boxes to the conservation society.  The organization will then install them throughout the area so that they are ready for the birds that may need them for years to come, including the beautiful Mountain Bluebird.

By researching, planning, and fostering interest in this cause, Jessica, Sage, and Zoee hope to help support local bird populations by providing consistent shelter and safe nesting sites, while raising awareness about native bird species and the factors that may be contributing to declining populations.  The whole project – from idea to proposal to implementation – was a fun and engaging learning process that has taught these students to better appreciate efforts to protect and care for our watersheds!

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Spring Clean Up
Soren Skaret and Dana Sych, grade 12 students from central-Alberta, took a long, hard look around their hometown of Hay Lakes and realized that things could be a lot cleaner with just a little help! After researching and learning more about the impacts of litter and waste in the Battle River Watershed where they live, the pair knew it was time to take action!

Dana and Soren showed perseverance in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and were able to adapt their plans for a coordinated group spring cleanup to a social media campaign and contest to encourage local families to get outside and pick up trash. Using a boosted Facebook ad the event was promoted to over 2500 local residents, with a dozen taking the lead in the community and participating in the litter pick.

To sweeten the deal, the pair included a prize pack for one lucky clean-up participant. The winner was drawn and received a package filled with Caring for our Watersheds swag! Hay Lakes is looking better already, and with more clean-ups like Soren and Dana’s we’re on track for a healthier watershed for years to come!

Spring Clean Up

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Save the Bees & St. James School Composting

2018, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaSouthern Alberta Garden Implementation

In 2018, Sofia Hedderick and Kristiane Free of St. James School in Calgary, AB implemented their project entitled “Save the Bees” throughout their schoolyard and adjacent to their outdoor classroom.  While researching colony collapse disorder, the importance of protecting our native bee species, and their role in food production and ecosystem health, Sofia and Kristiane’s project helps support solitary mason bees throughout their community.  They installed bee hotels in their school green space and planted native wildflowers and shrubs specifically to attract and support bee populations in the area.  They then educated other classes at their school on these bee hotels and the importance of bees in our local ecosystems, encouraging others to follow suite and take action.

From the same class, Cole Paslawski brought composting to St. James School to reduce food waste, provide nutrients for the soil in their gardens, and educate students and members of his community on the positive role composting plays in the environment and in our watershed.  Cole also aimed to improve the mental health of students and teachers in his school by encouraging not only the use of their composter, but also the use of their outdoor classroom and garden space.

As the St. James Outdoor Classroom continues to evolve, students will share watershed information with their peers and educate them as to the benefits of learning in nature and natural spaces in an urban environment.

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Schoolyard Rain Garden and Tree Planting

2018, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaSouthern Alberta Rain Garden Implementation

In 2018, Tina Tran of St. James School in Calgary, AB implemented her project “Rain Gardens – How Can They Impact Our Planet?”.  Her goal for the project was to build a healthy rain garden in the schoolyard and educate students on the significant impacts of conserving water to our watershed.  The benefits that Tina identified in researching and implementing her project included reducing the amount of carbon dioxide by allowing for more native vegetation respiration processes to occur, and conserving water by planting water-wise plants to improve soil water retention.  Her and her class planted native tree and shrub species, and incorporated healthy mulch into their schoolyard gardens to inhibit weed growth and decrease the amount of water required in the rain gardens.

From the same class, Ben Trudeau spearheaded his tree planting project throughout the same garden and outdoor classroom space at his school, St. James. 

He also distributed soil high in nutrients throughout these green spaces to allow for more effective growth and fill in some of the gaps throughout the gardens.  Species of shrubs, birch and willow trees were planted, and the increased vegetation is supporting clean air and healthy habitats for local, native wildlife.  The project has also improved the aesthetics and learning opportunities for students engaging in the outdoor classroom.

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Thirst Measurement Cups

Central Alberta Student Action Project Thirst Measurement Students photo2016, Daysland, Alberta, Canada

Bria Kroetch, Brooke Hochausen, and Alarie Guhle from Daysland Alberta were tired of seeing kids fill up a glass of water to take one sip, then pour the rest down the drain.

After learning about their Battle River Watershed and the regions limited supply of fresh water, the girls decided to try to save drinking water, one cup at a time.  They designed a “thirst measurement cup” to help kids make the connection between their thirst, and how much they should fill their cup.

These three girls did a presentation on watersheds and conserving water to all 250+ students in Thirst Measurement Cups stuident action project central albertatheir school. After the presentation, they handed out the cups to all students in grades 1-6.

The cup will not only help students save water on a daily basis, but also embed a habit of water conservation. The goal went beyond saving just the water in the cup, it was also to get students thinking about how they use water, and how they can conserve it.  Homes and the school in Daysland should now be seeing lots of water being saved, in the cup and beyond!

The cup has 4 measurement lines indicating “Almost Quenched”, “Just need a drink”, “Thirsty”, and “Dry as Dust”.

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LIFE (Lacombe Irrigation Foods Experiment) & Beewise

2016, Lacombe, Alberta, CanadaLife & BeeWise school greenhouse aquaponics system and outdoor gardens central alberta

Lacombe Composite High School has an active agriculture class and eco team, which have resulted in an amazing school greenhouse, aquaponics system and outdoor gardens.

One of the challenges that many schools face is having their gardens watered in the summer months when students are away.

The other challenge is watering the gardens efficiently to save water, while helping the plants grow.

Rachel Reitsma and Avy Lamb, students in the LEAFS initiatve, decided to conquor both Life & BeeWise native pollinator home outdoor gardens central albertachallenges by installing a drip irrigation system in their gardens. The irrigation tube (shown left) is dug into the soil to water the plant’s roots while minimizing the rate of evaporation. The system could also be set on a timer to water regullary, with options to delay watering if there is significant rainfall.

The other cool project implemented at the school this year is a Beewise- a home for native pollinators. Pollinators such as bees are facing a drastic decline in their population. This can harm the plants, including our food, which rely on pollinators.

This Beewise pollinator home provides much needed habitat, while ensuring the school’s gardens get the pollination they need.

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Down Cycle

2016, Wetaskiwin, Alberta, CanadaDown cycle student implementation project central alberta

Emily Jackson from Wetaskiwin, Alberta decided that she could help improve the watershed by
reducing the amount of disposable water bottles used at her school.

Her Caring for our Watersheds project involved installing a water-bottle fill-up station in the main foyer of the Wetaskiwin Composite Highschool. Not only that, but she worked with the student council to sell reusable water bottles and post information about reducing waste and the benefits of reusable bottles next to the station.

Emily is happy to leave this legacy of down cycling at her school as she heads off to university.

“Down Cycling”, which is to use less, is even better then recycling, which still uses a lot of energy and resources.