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Brush Off Invaders

2023, Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada
Students looking at project board mounted outside
Cassy Setter and Emmett Sherbinin were concerned about the presence of invasive plants in their watershed, so they came up with the idea of boot brush stations. Since invasive plant species can get onto the shoe’s of hikers, a boot brush can stop the spread into different areas. A benefit from these stations is that native plants will continue to thrive in the environment, and parks will have more management against invasives.

Their project targeted the Sustainable Development Goals #6 Clean Water and Sanitation (6.6), #14 Life Below Water (14.1, 14.2), and #15 Life Above Water (15.1, 15.5, 15.8).

They started with building stations to install into parks around their county and city with the help of their class. A sign is attached to each station with information on invasives and why it is important to use these stations before going onto a trail. Cassy and Emmett were able to work with their local municipalities to get permission to put their stations in 4 parks. They even donated a few to their local watershed group.

Students standing by project board

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Trees & Beads

2023, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
Two students standing by project on table
Taylor Ball and Kyptin Watters raised money for tree planting by selling jewelry. They wanted to give people an opportunity to participate in something beneficial for the environment. Their goal was to expand awareness by encouraging others to share their platform. With each purchase made they would donate to a local tree planting group. They advertised their product on a variety of social media channels, on a local radio station, and with schools.

The Sustainable Development Goals they focused on were #6 Clean Water and Sanitation, #13 Climate Action, #15 Life on Land, and #17 Partnerships for the Goal.

They partnered with Trees Canada and were able to get 125 trees planted by May 2023. Some future partnerships they want to make were with AWES, 2 Billion Trees program, and Trees for Life. All profits that are made will go towards the donation. They have been able to start a sustainable business that helps the community and environment.

wrists with bracelets on them

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Willow Staking

2023, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
group of students by river
Jade Pham’s project was on reducing erosion of river banks after seeing the consequences of flooding in the Bow River. They decided on willow staking along banks that have little to no vegetation. Willows can survive in wet environments and their root system can prevent erosion while filtering pollutants. Some of the other benefits to their project is improving biodiversity and providing habitat and food for wildlife.

The Sustainable Development Goals Jade focused on were #6 Clean Water and Sanitation, #13 Climate Action, #14 Life Below Water, and #15 Life on Land.

They partnered with Friends of Fish Creek to learn how to properly willow stake. There was a call for volunteers and funding from the community to be able to complete this project. Jade chose a location with little vegetation and where other projects had already been implemented to ensure better results. Her target was to plant 100 stakes along 50m of stream bank. With the help of the volunteers, she was able to complete their first planting.


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Bat Boxes

2023, Claresholm, Alberta, Canada
logo of bat box

Mary-Ann Toone wanted to increase the population of bats residing in her town, so she built bat boxes. WIth human populations growing and taking away natural habitat for bats, they have limited options. Bat boxes provide a place to roost and provide protection from predators and the elements. Mary-Ann designed a three chamber bat box to provide room for larger colonies. The benefit of having more bats in the area is decreased insect populations without having to use harmful chemicals. They wanted to educate the community about the importance of bats by leaving posters with information

Their Sustainable Development Goal was #15 Life on Land.

Mary-Ann approached her local councilors about her project to get permission for putting bat boxes in the community. With the approval of the council, they put boxes up in local parks and campgrounds. They also got the help of their construction teacher and students to help build the boxes. A bat box building club has been formed in their school because of this project.

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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.