Batty for Clean Water

2015 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, CanadaBuilding Bat Boxes Batty for CLean Water Student action project

Erin Baril and Hannah Swann from St. Edward School came up with the idea of installing bat boxes at their school and along the Meewasin Trail to encourage the little brown bat population in the City of Saskatoon. The students felt that bats would prey upon insects, especially mosquitoes, and reduce the need for the city to spray insecticides and therefore reduce chemicals from entering our watershed.

Pesticides enter our watershed each summer. Homeowners use pesticides to kill mosquitos, ants, aphids and many other insects on their lawn and gardens. When it rains, these pesticides can be washed from lawns and gardens into storm drains and into our local river. Once pesticides get into our water it can affect the aquatic life and the Bat House Batty for clean water Saskatchewan Student Action Projectquality of our drinking water in the South Saskatchewan River Watershed.

Bats are an important part of our watershed. They prey upon the insects that we use pesticides to control. Bats provide a natural way of controlling insect populations. Many North American bats can eat between 6000-8000 mosquito sized insects in one night!

Erin and Hannah came up with the idea of installing bat boxes at their school and donating bat boxes to Beaver Creek Conservation Area, which has many documented bat sightings. By increasing habitat for the little brown bat, a local species of bat in the Saskatoon area, it meant there would be a reduction in the insect populations in and around Saskatoon. Less insects mean less pesticides being used and a safer and healthier watershed.

The group built bat boxes with their class and developed a curriculum outcome package for teachers to do this activity with younger grades. The curriculum package was circulated around the school so more people can learn about the importance of these intrepid insect eating creatures!

Squeaky Green

2015 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Julia Visentini and Jasmine Thomas from Students making sqeaky green handsoap student action projectSt. Edward School decided to focus their efforts on educating about the harmful effects of triclosan. Trisclosan is a preservative and anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent found in many of the hand sanitizers, soaps, shampoos and other PCPs that we use. Studies show that triclosan can interfere with how hormones function in our bodies. It is an endocrine disrupter and can affect the reproductive systems of animals. Triclosan is also found to be very toxic to aquatic animals and can cause long term negative effects on aquatic ecosystems.

When triclosan enters our water ways it can react with other pollutants and form additional harmful compounds like dioxins which is linked to causing cancer in humans. Triclosan doesn’t easily degrade so it can build up in our rivers and lakes after washing down the drain. This means that fish can accumulate this chemical in their bodies over time, potentially becoming harmful to the other animals, including humans along the food chain.Sqeaky Green Hand soap student action project

The students developed 3 triclosan-free organic consumer products: hand sanitizer, hand soap, and shampoo, and shipped out education packages and samples for teachers and students to utilize alternative products that do not include this harmful chemical. The soap contains water, castile soap, olive oil, vitamin E oil and lemon essential oil.

In order to share this information, Julia and Jasmine created a commercial that they showed to classes in their school to inform them about the problem and to share their solutions. They also developed a recipe book so that other students could create their own soaps free from chemicals.

After piloting the Squeaky Green products with their class they wanted to make a bigger impact in Saskatoon. They wanted to get more students across Saskatoon to use triclosan-free products! So, Julia and Jasmine made 40 body product sample packs. Each of these sample packs contained samples for the hand sanitizer, soap, and shampoo and a copy of the Squeaky Green recipe book that detailed how to make them. In November of 2015, these packages went to 40 schools in Saskatoon and encouraged students and teachers to become Squeaky Green and to protect our precious watershed. Students and teachers were able to see for themselves how effective Squeaky Green products are and how easy they are to make (not to mention how good they smell!).


Sammy’s Flight Over Our Watersheds

2015 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, CanadaSammy's Flight Student Action Project Student Photo

Charlee Urban and Kelsey Thibault from St. Edward School decided that the best way to improve their watershed was by educating and instilling environmental values in the younger generation! By educating and changing the behaviours of our children and youth and developing their relationship with our environment, long term positive environmental effects are achieved.  They feel more connected to their watershed and the natural world, and so they want to work towards protecting it!

The students decided the best way to do this was by developing a colourful children’s book called “Sammy’s Flight over our Watershed.” They hand drew and developed a unique storyline that follows Sammy, a young squirrel, and Callie, his bird friend who explores their watershed and discovers that it Saskatchewan Student Project Sammy's Flight Educational Bookis being impacted by the careless actions of humans.  The story teaches younger grades the importance of taking care of their watersheds. The book provides a number of activities the students can do to improve their watershed such as cleaning up litter, making sure their car is being washed at a car wash, responsibly using chemical fertilizers and herbicides or using alternatives, and not dumping paint or oils down the storm drain.  Charlee and Kelsey read their story to a number of classes in their school and donated the book to their school library to be used as a teaching tool for school teachers in grade 1-3.

Education and awareness are the first steps to improving our local watershed. This books ensures that there are many future water protectors who have learned the importance of our watershed through Sammy’s little journey!

This book is a creative way to educate children on their watershed. It will be a great resource for teachers to use in the classroom because it covers curriculum outcomes, and parents can read it to their children at home. The children’s book was given to daycare centers and classroom teachers in their school division. The school division granted the Charlee and Kelsey permission to implement this project further if given the chance.

World, Water, and We (Community Garden)

2015 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Ruby Hamilton, Emma Eckdahl, Kathryn Guenter and Vanessa Coutu from Caswell Community School have been working with their school to install raised beds of vegetables and herbs to be used for their nutrition room at their school. Caswell School is in the process of installing an outdoor classroom which would include indigenous design elements such as a circular platform with the four cardinal directions. The students decided that it would be Student photo community garden saskatchewan student projectbeneficial to also build some raised beds to be located behind each bench surrounding the circular platform to provide shade for students while they’re learning and food for their nutrition room. The students plan to utilize rain-water for the raised beds in order to reduce wasteful water use.  The raised beds were set to be installed in the summer of 2015.

This garden will benefit their community and province. By using a natural pesticide like lady bugs the students will eliminate the need for pesticide use at the school, thereby helping to reduce chemical runoff into the watershed. The use of composting as a natural soil enhancer will also help to reduce the amount of organic waste that occurs in the school.

The community is very passionate about this idea and will definitely follow through.

I Thought I Saw A Tweety Bird

2015 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Jocelyn Lalach from St. Edward School is passionate about birds and is sharing that passion with others! Birds are an integral part of our watershed. Indeed, without them, many functions that they provide would no longer exist. Jocelyn explored the benefits of healthy bird populations and their benefits to the South Saskatchewan River Watershed such as reducing insect populations and seed transportation in the river valley.

Birds provide many benefits to our local watershed! Through transporting seeds in the river valley, Student winning photo saskatchewan student action projectbirds help new native shrubs grow and root in the riparian area providing wildlife habitat and other ecological services. The riparian area is the zone along river or creek banks close to the water. This zone needs strong and healthy shrubs to help keep pollutants out of our water ways. Plants in the riparian area slow down water and help it infiltrate and filter through soil and root systems before entering our watershed. This process reduces the amount of runoff entering our water ways and helps to prevent pesticides, fertilizers, and other pollutants from entering our watershed.  As an added benefit, these shrubs and their root systems provide structure for the soil along river and creek banks which prevent erosion. Lastly, birds eat insects. The healthier our bird populations in our watershed the more insects they eat and the less pesticides we use to control them ourselves!

Jocelyn developed a curriculum based program called “I Thought I Saw a Tweety Bird” that educates students in grades 2 and 3 about the different types of bird species found in the South Saskatchewan River Basin. She developed a bird unit that is available online here: with all the necessary tools for teachers and students to learn about the importance of birds to their watershed.  Jocelyn has left her website up online for teachers to access the curriculum material.


Xeriscaping our School

2015 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Manothri Malikarachichi and Sadie Simpson from Montgomery School focused their project on implementing a xeriscaped landscape at their school as a pilot project to educate students and their community about the benefits of using drought-tolerant plant species in place of conventional water consumptive landscaping techniques.

Xeriscaping has many benefits and helps our local watersheds in a number of ways. By planting with native and drought tolerant plants you are reducing how much outdoor water is used in your home. These plants require much less water than conventional lawn and gardens. Some native and drought Student winner photo xeriscaping our school student action projecttolerant plants only require the intermittent rain that falls through Saskatoon’s summers!

Xeriscaping is also beautiful. It provides pops of colour and beauty rather than the monotonous green patches of conventional lawns. Once a xeriscaped landscape is installed and established, there is little work needed. There is no need for excess watering, the use of pesticides, fertilizers or gas for mowing! All of these inputs on our lawn and gardens impact our watershed because they can wash into our storm drains and into the river harming sensitive aquatic habitat. But, with a xeriscaped garden, this doesn’t happen because those inputs are not needed.

The students worked with their school to install a xeriscaped landscape in their outdoor classroom area. They are hoping to receive neighbourhood support for long term maintenance in partnership with the school.

S.T.O.P. – Storm Sewer Trash Only Pollutes

2014 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Justin and cheque
Justen Saini from Greystone Heights School in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, proposed the idea of using informational brochures to educate Saskatonians on the proper ways and appropriate locations to dispose of household hazardous waste products. In his proposal, Justen made the connection between improper dumping of pollutants into Saskatoon’s storm drains to the lack of convenient hazardous drop off locations in the city. He emphasized that the current drop off location at the Sasktel Centre in the north-end of the city and its changing drop off times made it difficult for many citizens to access its services. This, therefore, increased the likelihood that citizens would look for alternate ways to dispose of wastes such as used oil, household chemical products, unused fertilizers, pesticides and other types of wastes. These
alternative ways often meant right into Saskatoon storm drains! Justen advocated for there to be another hazardous waste drop of location in the east-end of the city in order to reduce the cases of hazardous waste disposal into storm drains. Justen also proposed that his informational pamphlets be included in the City of Saskatoon’s utility bills and in the City of Saskatoon’s educational programs and informational booths. These brochures would make Saskatonians aware that any wastes that enter storm sewers proceed directly into the South Saskatchewan River. His brochures also outlined the operating hours of the Sasktel Centre drop off times and location.STOP poster

Following his verbal presentation at the 2014 Caring for our Watersheds final competition, Justen Saini was invited by City Councilor Charlie Clark to make a presentation in front of City Council. On May 4, 2014 Justen Saini made a presentation to the City of Saskatoon Council advocating the recommendation to establish a new hazardous waste disposal location for the east-side of the city and to include his educational brochures in the utility bill and in City of Saskatoon educational programming. Following his presentation the City Councilors made a recommendation for another drop off location to be considered for the 2015 season. Currently, the City of Saskatoon is working with Justen to include his STOP pamphlets into the City of Saskatoon educational material and utility bill.

Insect hotels: Accommodating Biodiversity

2014 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Alana Krug-McLeod from Aden Bowman Collegiate in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, proposed the idea of improving the South Saskatchewan River Watershed through increasing insect biodiversity. Her proposal was to build three separate Insect Hotels in Saskatoon with educational signage and an associated website that explained the benefits of insect biodiversity and the importance of habitat provision like Insect Hotels for improving nearby aquatic ecosystems. Alana explained in her proposal that “…insect hotel typically consists of a solid structure or frame filled with organic and inorganic materials, a formation that serves to provide habitat for insects.” The types of material such as bricks, bamboo, drilled logs, bark affect what varieties of insects check-in at a given hotel.

Once built, insect hotels attract creatures such as lacewings, ladybugs, and mason bees. Alana explained at the Caring for our Watersheds final competition that these beneficial insects eat aphids and other destructive pests, pollinate plants so they can bear fruit or vegetables, and serve as decomposers of organic material. Alana felt that Insects Hotels could not only increase local biodiversity but also provide the opportunity for uniquely engaging her community to learn about insects and potentially inspire them to build their own Insect Hotels.

Alana worked with the community to build and install three separate insect hotels across Saskatoon; one in a private yard, one at the Varsity View Community Garden, and one at Aden Bowman’s joint school and community garden.

On August 26th, Alana met with members of the community garden to construct their insect hotel. People of all ages participated with volunteers ranging from a four year old to seniors. Together volunteers and members of the community garden built a beautiful structure, which a smaller group of volunteers was able to fill, seal, and mount the next morning.

On August 27th, Alana met with a group of students from Aden Bowman Collegiate to harvest and weed the raised garden beds and to install and fill the insect hotel. Everyone was energetically engaged, and the insect hotel was easily secured in a south facing location beside the raised garden beds. Two students agreed to be contacts for the Insect Hotels and to report on what types of insects take up residence and to monitor the longevity of the structure. After the Insect Hotel was installed some of the students talked about making insect hotels for themselves and as gifts for others.

The third insect hotel was built by Alana and her mom with materials remaining from the construction of the first Insect Hotels and donated materials. It was installed in her family’s front yard in the Varsity View neighbourhood, where it attracts the attention of passersbys who often stop to see or taste what is growing in the garden. Alana has expressed interest, capacity willing, to work with other interested groups in Saskatoon to build more Insect Hotels and continue to increase aquatic and insect biodiversity to improve her local watershed.

Pharmaceuticals in our Water

2014 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Maggie Reid from Greystone Heights School in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, proposed the idea of putting up posters at her local neighbourhood grocery stores and pharmacies to inform and educate Saskatonians on the proper way and appropriate locations to dispose of pharmaceutical products. In her proposal, Maggie made the connection that when you turn on the tap and fill your glass with water, that water may still have traces of medications and pharmaceuticals in it.
In Maggie’s research she found that although waste water treatment plants can remove many chemicals and foreign materials, active drug compounds are not eliminated and can collect in our rivers, lakes and ground water. When these chemicals collect in water bodies they have the potential to impact the fish, wildlife, and other organisms living within aquatic ecosystems. Expired or unused pharmaceuticals have certain chemical properties that may disrupt the proper function of hormone systems and can be attributed to causing fish to change sexes from male to female during sensitive stages of development. This has consequences for breeding and maintaining healthy fish populations in our rivers and lakes. Not to mention, we drink this water ourselves! This was a problem that Maggie felt strongly about.

She discovered that people still currently flush un-used medications or pharmaceuticals down the toilet in order to keep their children or pets from ingesting them. Maggie felt the solution to this problem was to raise awareness. If people knew that the South Saskatchewan River that they loved was becoming increasingly filled with chemicals from the improper disposal of pharmaceuticals, they would think twice the next time they went to flush their pills down the toilet! She discovered that there was an easy alternative available for the safe disposal of these items. All peopled needed to do was return expired and unused pharmaceuticals to their local pharmacy where there are policies to safely dispose of them. Maggie took action to implement her project and received permission to put up posters at Extra Foods’ pharmacies and the Coop pharmacies within her neighbourhood. The posters communicated information in a fun and simple way through graphics that Maggie drew by hand. The participating pharmacies were delighted to put up Maggie’s posters and were happy that she was taking the initiative to improve her watershed through the Caring for our Watersheds program!

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 Nutrien’s Caring for our Watersheds (“CFW”) program.

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