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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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Water Testing Demo Project

2021, Sacramento, CA, USA

George Washington Carver High School students Ekhman Kahlon and Tess Brown are concerned about the direct and indirect pollution of their local creeks. They are also concerned about the lack of awareness (especially of their peer group) about the importance of water quality and how it can affect the aquatic ecosystem as well as drinking water. They devised a project in which they would test some basic indicators of water quality in 2 local creeks, then discuss their findings through social media. In order to gain the attention of their peer group, the team designed and posted creek-themed memes, then posted about the constituents they tested for and what levels outside the standard range can mean for the health of the creek.  Ekman and Tess themselves learned a lot from the process and hope to get others interested learning more about water quality and the sources of pollutants in our waterways.

 

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Vertical Garden Project

2021, Sacramento, CA, USA

When Ella Waite and Mia Andrade from George Washington Carver High School started researching vertical gardens, they were impressed by the myriad of environmental and social benefits they could provide.  For their Caring for Our Watersheds project, Ella and Mia decided to not only build a vertical garden, but to also document the process and share through social media. With this added component, they could more widely demonstrate the benefits of the design and hopefully inspire others to try this type of gardening. As detailed in their proposal, vertical gardens allow people to efficiently utilize the space available in urban environments to provide food, improve air quality, reduce heat-island effects, save energy, and increase biodiversity.

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Rain Barrel Project

2021, Sacramento, CA, USA

George Washington Carver High School students Abigail Parayo, John Hixson, Viktoria Neufeld, Antonio Ramirez are concerned about drought in California and wanted to focus their Caring for Our Watersheds project on ways to conserve water at home. As almost half of residential water in CA is used on outdoor landscapes, they decided to install a water barrel at one of the student’s homes. Rainwater would be collected during winter and spring storms and could be used to water plants in the yard during the drier months. The group connected the barrel to the existing rainspout using an adapter kit and built a stand for the rain barrel to help gravity feed water through a hose to reach further plants.  This project allowed them to get one step further toward their water conservation goals, gave them some basic construction experience, and allowed them to safely complete an outdoor project at home during COVID-19.

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Pollinator Garden Project

2021, Sacramento, CA, USA

George Washington Carver High School students Alicia Hernandez, Nyla Jones, and Brandon Chu initiated a project that aims to raise awareness about declining pollinator populations well as establish habitat and nectar sources for native bees. The group grew pollinator- friendly plant species from seed to establish gardens and to give plant starts to members of their community. A brochure that discusses the importance of pollinators, the benefits of the species chosen, and tips for plant care will accompany the plants they distribute. Caring for Our Watersheds funding from Nutrien helped the group purchase materials needed for planting and outreach.

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Lincoln Village Clean-Up Project

2021, Sacramento, CA, USA

When George Washington Carver High School students Imani Stroman-Valdez, Nyah Parker, Andrey Sasevich, Max Musacchia were planning their Caring for Our Watersheds project, they knew they wanted to complete a stewardship project close to their high school. They identified the Lincoln Village Community Park and the adjacent Neil Orchard Senior Activities Center as an area that could use some attention and care. The students planned and conducted a litter clean-up event at the park and center. 

In addition, they identified areas to place 2 low-maintenance continuous composters, to reduce organic waste in the trash bins. The compost created would be used to enrich the soil in the flower beds around the Center.  While the group is awaiting approval for the placement of the composters, they were able to complete the clean-up and be stewards of a park quite close to home and their school community.

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Addressing Food Insecurity

2021, Sacramento, CA, USA

Sabrina Lee, MaiChong Lee, and Faye Lee, students at Grant High School in Sacramento, were concerned about food insecurity in their community, especially during COVID-19, quarantine, and the associated economic pressures. They wanted to help students and families start small vegetable gardens at home to help supplement and ensure access to nutritional foods. To demonstrate the process, the group planted tomatoes, zucchini, and other vegetables in their school garden, created short videos and a website to educate youth about gardening, which they shared with the 10th grade class. They also provided many of these students with seeds to start their own gardens and asked for those students to document and share about the experience.  Jesse Garcia, Marielle Magalong, and Jared Matias were among the students that received and planted seeds, thus benefitting from the food gardening education provided by their peers.

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Eco-Friendly Skin Care Products

2021, Sacramento, CA, USA

Grant High School students Sabela Tekle, Ana Martinez, and Jessica Jimenez are concerned about the harmful ingredients that are added to many cosmetic and skincare products and the effect these additives could have on the environment and long- term health of consumers. They are also concerned about the plastic waste generated by the beauty product industry.

To raise awareness about these issues and provide an alternative for their peers, these students created their own natural face scrub using natural ingredients such as brown sugar for an exfoliant, and provided it in reusable/ recyclable tin jars. They used the products as giveaways in a launch/awareness event at school during which they shared information about harmful additives and plastic use in the beauty industry and alternatives. To reach those not present at school during COVID, they posted on Instagram and shared the link to a webpage that shared more info on their project and product.