Southern Alberta

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.

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.

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.



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.



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.

Save The Trees, Use The Trees

2016 Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Save The Trees, Use The Trees - Calgary Alberta Canada
The 2016 first place winners in Southern Alberta’s Caring For Our Watersheds competition were Centennial High School students Kaylee Nishizawa, Rebecca McCollister and Nicole Stringham, with their project “Save The Trees, Use The Trees”

These students were concerned about water conservation and the use of herbicides and pesticides in their community. When researching these issues, the students became interested in the use of mulch on gardens and flowerbeds. Mulch helps inhibit weed growth, retain soil moisture and prevents frost heaving and soil temperature fluctuations. Armed with information on the benefits of using mulch, the students organized a “Community Mulch Day”, where residents could come to the local community centre between 10:00 and 2:00 to pick up free mulch to use on their gardens and flowerbeds.

Save The Trees, Use The Trees - Calgary Alberta Canada

To encourage people within their community to take advantage of the fee mulch, the students distributed thousands of flyers to residents in their South Calgary community, informing them of the event and of the benefits of using mulch in their yards.

The “Community Mulch Day” was a huge success! Hundreds of citizens came to the Mid Sun Community Centre to pick up free mulch, provided by The City of Calgary. The students were there to provide information on the benefits of using mulch, and to help people load the mulch into their vehicles.

This project was made possible by a number of sponsors, including: Caring for Our Watersheds, The City of Calgary Parks, Greengate Garden Centers, atr and the Mid-Sun Community Association.

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.

Microplastics Exchange

2016, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

In 2017, Madeline Yeomans of Dr. E.P. Scarlett School in Calgary implemented her project southern alberta microplastics exchange student implementation“Microplastics, Macroproblem”. Madeline was concerned about the amount of microbeads and microplastics in consumer products and the impact this is having on our watershed.

In an effort to combat this issue, Madeline held a “Microplastics Exchange” and information session at her school. Madeline advertised this event through her school to inform fellow students and teachers that the exchange would be taking place. For a one week period, students were encouraged to bring in products containing microbeads to exchange them for microbead-free products and receive education regarding the harmful effect of microbeads on the local watershed.

Microbeads are commonly used as exfoliants in facial cleansers and other skin products, yet these minute pieces of plastic do not dissolve in the watershed. These beads move through waste water filtration systems and are ingested by a number of marine organisms.

The Microplastics Exchange event at Dr. E.P. Scarlett School was a huge success and more than one hundred products containing microbeads were exchanged for eco-friendly equivalents.

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.

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.