Southern Alberta

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Plants Improving Air Quality

2018, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

In 2018, Alicia Poovong of Lester B. Pearson School in Calgary, Alberta placed sixth in the 2018 Caring for Our Watersheds contest with her project “Plants Improving Air Quality”.

Alicia is a passionate gardener and active member of her high school’s gardening club.  While working with the club, Alicia and her teacher saw an opportunity to improve the air quality of their school by placing air purifying plants throughout various classrooms and learning spaces.  By identifying concerns with high amounts of carbon emissions and urban byproducts that pollute our air and contaminate our drinking water sources, Alicia saw a strong connection between the quality of the air we breathe and the health of our Bow River Watershed.

Starting small-scale, Alicia had a positive impact on the air quality of her school by growing and distributing air filtering plants such as spider plants, ferns and ivy, to name a few, in and out of Lester B. Pearson.

Her and her teacher have also set up growing stations with UVA/UVB plant lights and solutions to local pest insects, to ensure the survival and health of these beneficial plants.  Through partnerships with her school administration, Gardening Club, the Caring for Our Watersheds program, fundraising and community donations, she hopes to keep this viable, low-cost benefit to our neighbourhoods and watershed going for future students in the years to come.

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In 2017, Ryan Song of Sir Winston Churchill High School placed 4th overall in the Caring For Our Watersheds competition with their project “Living Wall and Green Area”. Sir Winston Churchill High School was built in 1968 and has undergone very few renovations since then. The school contains very few windows, many of which do not open. Students often complain that the school environmenLiving wall and green areat is stifling, uninspiring and that there is poor air quality. In addition, Ryan felt that there was a general lack of environmental awareness among students at this school.

In an effort to combat these issues, and raise awareness about the local watershed, Ryan and the Sir Winston Churchill Earth Club decided to install a portable green wall, and produce information brochures about unsustainable behaviors that have a negative impact on our watershed. The portability of the green wall means that it can be moved to different classrooms within the school, based on the amount of natural light that is seasonally available in sections of the building.

The living wall and green area is maintained by student volunteers that are members of the Eath Club. Through their continued dedication to this project, and involvement with the CFOW program, these students have taken a vested interest in protecting the watershed and providing knowledge to other students about why the green wall is there and the impact our actions have on native plants and animals in our watershed.

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InHawk nesting box in Milk River 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.

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St. James Outdoor Classroom

2016, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

In 2016, Melanie McCready and Emme Larkins of St. James School in Calgary, AB placed second St. James Outdoor Classroom Student implementation projectin the 2016 CFOW contest, with their project “St. James Outdoor Classroom”.

While working with the school Ecoclub, Melanie and Emme realized that there were very few places for students to connect with nature and for teachers to provide learning opportunities in an outdoor environment. In an effort to solve this issue and help the watershed at the same time, Melanie and Emme worked with the Ecoclub to design an outdoor learning space. This learning space includes native plants trees and shrubs. Not only do these plants increase biodiversity in our watershed, they are also essential to many pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds and birds.

St. James Outdoor Classroom Student implementation projectThere have been picnic tables, garbage cans and recycling bins installed in the natural learning area, with plans to expand and continue to develop the area with additional natural features in the future.  Research has shown that teaching outdoors makes educators more confident and enthusiastic about their work, and more innovative in their teaching strategies. By extension, schools benefit from the leadership and influence of their teachers who take students outside. Studies indicate that students that are given the opportunity to learn in a natural setting often score higher on tests, experience less anxiety and have more confidence.

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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Turn Out the Lights and Join the Darkside

2015 Blackie, Alberta, Canada
light bulb
The 8th place winner of the 2014 Caring For Our Watersheds competition was Riley Tirkaylo from Blackie School. Riley was concerned about light pollution in his community. Light pollution has several negative impacts on the ecosystem and watershed including: unnecessary energy consumption, interfering with the resting, feeding and migration patterns of wildlife, and impacting insect behavior and mating activities.

To address the issue of light pollution in his community, Riley designed a project to educate people about the impact of light pollution and provide community members with samples of LED light bulbs provided by Fortis Alberta.Darkside team photo

At Blackie’s “Green Day” event, Riley handed out hundreds of brochures that explained the hazards of light pollution and suggested ways in which people could reduce their energy consumption. Through collaboration with Fortis Alberta, Riley was also able to hand out free samples of LED light bulbs for people to use. These light bulbs are much more energy-efficient than the incandescent bulbs of the past.

Through this initiative, Riley has been able to inform people in his community about the negative effects of light pollution, provide people with alternative light bulbs and spread the word about watershed health and environmental stewardship.

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Microbeads Educational Video

2015 Blackie, Alberta, Canada
Video snapshot
The 2015 Caring For Our Watersheds 4th place contest winners were  Brayden Brausse and Nicholas Locken from Blackie School. These students were concerned about micro beads in the watershed, and the impact these small pieces of plastic have on plants, animals and water quality.

To bring awareness to this issue, the students produced a video about the harmful effects of micro beads and the use of alternative products that do not cause harm to the watershed.

Mirco beads come in 2 forms—polyethylene and polypropylene, both of which are used in household products such as exfoliating face washes and toothpaste. Micro beads are no bigger Photo of winnerthan a grain of sand can pass through storm water and waste water treatment systems (unfiltered) into the watershed.  This plastic can then be ingested by fish and other sea-life and move up the food chain into larger creatures.   

Alternatives to products containing micro beads are plentiful and widely available. They include cleansers containing walnut shells, apricot seeds or oatmeal. Through their educational video, these students were able to provide information about the harmful effects of micro beads on the watershed, and inform people on available alternatives.

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Game for Change

2015 Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Hand drawn photo
The 9th place winners of the 2014 Caring for Our Watersheds competition were Maddie Catling and Sarah Abt from St. James School. As part of their Global Leadership Class, these students were involved with the development of a web game entitled “Game for Change”.

This game teaches people about global environmental issues, including the state of our watersheds. The objective of the game is to reach a certain standard of living so you can sustain your life. The more developed the country you choose, the easier it is to reach this sustainable level. You ‘win’ when you have: 50 Health Points, 50 Water Points, 30 Education Points, $75 Global Bucks or a biosand filter or plumbing. Once players complete the game, they can visit the “actions you can take” page for lesson plans, stewardship information and ideas about how to decrease environmental footprints.Choose a destination hand drawn photo

Through the development of the “Game For Change”, students from St. James school not only learned about their local watershed and environmental stewardship, they were able to educate people worldwide about the state of our watershed and how to have a positive impact on the environment regardless or economic status or geographic area.

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Compost Waste Management

2015 Blackie, AB, CanadaYou're Invited Poster

10th place winners in the 2015 Caring For Our Watersheds competition, Shane Hudson and Brady Waisman, from Blackie School, were concerned about composting in their community. As there is no municipal composting program in the small hamlet of Blackie, these students were worried that the majority of compost from homes was being sent to the local landfill.

As a solution to this problem, the students designed a project in which people from their community would receive education about composting, as well as free composters at Blackie’s annual “Green Day” event.Photo of Students

Through the initiative of these students, community members, students and teachers were educated as to the value of composting, as well as given composters to use at their homes. This project provided dozens of composters to home-owners, which will not only decrease the amount of compostable food waste entering the landfill, but will also encourage people to use compost on their gardens and spread the word about how composting has a positive impact on the local watershed.

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Storm Drain Survival Kit

2014 Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

In 2014, the second-place winner of The Caring For Our Watersheds competition, Lethbridge High School student Kelsey Armstrong, decided to tackle the issue of debris build-up around lPicture drawn by Kelsey Armstrongocal storm drains in her community.  Kelsey was concerned that debris entering our watershed through storm drains was impacting the quality of the Oldman River. As a solution, Kelsey designed the “Storm Drain Survival Kit”.

The Storm Drain Survival Kit is made up of: garbage bags, doggie bags, a trowel, gloves, a Prairie Urban Garden plant book and an information brochure, all contained within a reusable shopping bag.

Over six hundred Storm Drain Survival Kits were distributed to the community at events such as: the Lethbridge Green List Celebration, the Annual Knapweed Pull, Prairie Garden Urban Tours, local farmer’s markets and home and garden shows. Through Kelsey’s hard work and commitment to sharing information on storm water awareness, this project was far-reaching and has had an on-going impact in her community.

Along with support from the Caring For Our Watersheds program, Kelsey’s project received funding from The Community Foundation Lethbridge—Youth In Action, the Oldman Watershed Council and the City of Lethbridge.

Low Flush Toilets

2013 Calgary, Alberta, Canada
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Torri Kondics, from St. James School in Calgary, Alberta was concerned about water consumption in her school. Torri performed research on the amount of water used by the school, and found that the school used thousands of liters of water a day!

To combat this problem, Torri decided to have two dual-flush toilets installed in St. James School. This resulted in a total savings of almost 1500 L New flusher installedof water per day. Torri  also had timers installed on the urinals in the boys’ washroom. These timers decreased the urinal flush rate, resulting in even greater water savings for her school.

Through Torri’s efforts aimed at the decrease of water consumption at St. James School, she has left a legacy for future staff and students, all of whom will benefit from the reduction in water use. Her project will serve as a reminder to future students and staff that every drop does indeed count!