Caring for our Watersheds 2022 - Finalists & Projects

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Caring for Our Watersheds, a joint program of Nutrien and the Center for Land-Based Learning, empowers students to create solutions in their local watersheds through an environmental proposal writing contest. Up to $10,000 in cash is available to students so that they can turn their ideas into reality.




EcoKicks: A Project Reusing and Refurbishing Sneakers

Submitted this year, these 10 finalists advanced to a final competition where students competed for cash awards for themselves and their schools.

Water Conservation Open House

Promoting Eco-Friendly Art

Student: Hana Yang School: Grant Union High School

Students: Arana Katasema, Bella Marroquin, Jaiden Gonzales, Bernie Xicotencatl School: George Washington Carver High School

Host an Open House event on campus to demonstrate various techniques to conserve water in the landscape and home. Stations would include information on drought tolerant plants, mulching, drip irrigation, and water conservation devices such as soil moisture meters, faucet aerators, and lowflow showerheads. Free samples of plants and devices will be available to community members.

Let’s Be Plastic Free: Social Media Advocacy Campaign Student: Clara Nordahl School: Mira Loma High School Advocate for passage of the 2022 California Plastic Waste Reduction Regulations (CPWRR) Initiative and a reduction in the consumption of single-use plastic. Raise awareness and garner support for the initiative by creating informational posts and colorful infographics to share online through public social media platforms.

Reducing and Reusing Food Waste in Our Community Students: Samuel Hartsell-Jenkins, Kirby Slagle School: The MET Sacramento Start and maintain a composting system on campus, utilizing upcycled olive barrels, to reduce the amount of food waste going to landfills. By composting organic waste, the school will reduce its contribution to greenhouse gasses, particularly methane, which is produced by anaerobic decomposition of organic matter in landfills.

Promote the use of an eco-friendly art material, Ecopoxy, as an alternative to synthetic resins currently used by many artists. Synthetic resin products can be harmful to the environment and have adverse effects on human/ animal health. Team plans to host a booth at the Sacramento Earth Day Festival to display their art made of Ecopoxy and educate the public.

Recycling at Foresthill Schools Student: Cameron Kaestner School: Foresthill High School Initiate a recycling program at two Foresthill schools. Work with Booster Club and school administration to purchase recycling bins for each campus and establish a pick-up schedule. Facilitate student workshops with speakers from Western Placer Waste Management Authority to encourage participation and give insight into recycling and the waste management process.

E-waste Collection Program Student: Celina Chen School: Mira Loma High School Organize an electronic waste collection program at school. Coordinate with Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps for pick-up and transport to CEAR recycling facility. Produce and distribute an informational pamphlet on the environmental impact of Ewaste and tips for proper disposal/ recycling.

Student: Greg Bounmy School: Grant Union High School Address the negative environmental impact of the shoe industry and reduce the waste-stream into landfills by restoring used sneakers. Educate classmates on the issue and lead a hands-on demonstration on how to refurbish footwear. Post results on Instagram to encourage others to extend the product life of their sneakers.

“Growing UP": Educating with Vertical Hydroponics Student: Noramon Ransibrahmanakul School: Mira Loma High School Organize a school program that teaches sustainability and innovation through a hands-on educational experience: maintaining a vertical hydroponics system in the classroom. Install the system and create educational modules explaining the science of hydroponics and the potential benefits of this new agricultural technology.

Composting for Change Student: Mariposa Freeling School: Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning Initiate a composting program at school and engage the school environmental club to ensure long-term maintenance of system. Composting not only keeps food scraps out of landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also produces a nutrient-rich product that can improve soil conditions and plant health. Sustainable Masks Student: Benjamin Hartman School: Mira Loma High School Reduce mask pollution by providing and encouraging the use of biodegradable masks. While still providing the same level of protection, BioMasks will not persist in the environment as long as the single-use polypropylene masks, and can degrade quickly when exposed to microbes and enzymes in landfills.



Kelly Cantrell, student at Foresthill High School and finalist in the 2021 Caring for Our Watersheds contest, has been working hard to implement her multi-phase project. The driver for Kelly’s project was her discovery of an invasive non-native species, Scotch Broom, on a section of her school’s campus. As this invasive species can outcompete native plants, reduce biodiversity, and alter habitat, she formulated a plan to remove the Scotch Broom, re-plant the area with native species to attract pollinators, and add signage to educate on invasive species and native pollinators.

WATER CONSERVATION OPEN HOUSE Hana Yang is a student in Grant High School’s GEO Academy, and a 2022 Caring for Our Watersheds finalist. With the help of her fellow classmates at Grant, Hana organized and facilitated an Open House event on campus to demonstrate various techniques to conserve water in the landscape and home. Stations included information on drought tolerant plants, mulching, composting, drip irrigation, and water conservation devices such as soil moisture meters, faucet aerators, and low-flow showerheads. Free samples of water-wise plants and devices were available to community members.

XERISCAPING AND POLLINATOR GARDENS Students at George Washington Carver School of Arts and Sciences have been busy prepping and planting different areas of campus. Nickole La Course and Maya Mendoza are focused on drought-tolerant species with their xeriscaping project, while Natalie Durling and Josephine Rios are aiming to attract native pollinators to the school garden with the species they plant. Drip irrigation will be installed in both areas, which will serve as demonstration gardens highlighting water-wise and pollinator friendly landscaping practices. Both groups are grateful for funding from Nutrien, and for their classmates at Carver who are helping them turn their ideas into reality!

THANK YOU TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED! 2022 TEACHERS & SCHOOLS Aart DeWaard – George Washington Carver High School Amara Smallwood – Golden Sierra High School Anne Marie Kennedy – Grant Union High School Bruce Hansen – Winston Churchill Middle School Christopher Chu – The MET Sacramento High School Colleen Kelly – Mira Loma High School Franco Canet – Mira Loma High School Gregory Geraldo – Sierra Acad. of Expeditionary Learning Jennifer Buck – Tokay High School John Grima Jr.– DaVinci High School Justin Ashwell – Mira Loma High School Katie Cantrell – Foresthill High School Kristen Hein Strohm – Sierra Acad. of Expeditionary Learning Robert Sherriff – Winston Churchill Middle School



2022 JUDGES & VOLUNTEERS Alex Lintner – Climate Action Fellow, GrizzlyCorps Allie Igwe – PhD, Microbiology/ Research Fellow Amelia Munson – PhD, Animal Behavior, UC Davis Brian Brown – Project WET, Water Education Foundation

What is the Caring for Our Watersheds program? Caring for Our Watersheds is an education program that engages students in preserving and improving their local watersheds. How does it work? Students submit proposals that answer the question: What can you do to improve your watershed? The program rewards the students and the schools who submit the most innovative and well-planned project ideas. Proposals are scored by judges and the top 10 projects are selected to compete in the final competition. Who organizes the contest? The Center for Land-Based Learning, whose mission is to inspire, educate and cultivate future generations of farmers, agricultural leaders, and natural resource stewards, organizes the contest in California. The Center for Land-Based Learning runs programs in 27 California counties that connect youth and adults to agriculture and environmental science careers.

Who can compete?

Crystal Tobias – Friends of Lakes Folsom and Natoma

All high school students that live in the Sacramento-San Joaquin watershed can compete.

Elisabeth Beckensten – Civil Engineer Emily Snider – UCD Grad. Student, Civil & Env. Engineering Erica Key – California Geological Survey Genelle Treaster – CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

What can you win?

Hannah Ritchie – Western Placer USD

All finalists will win cash prizes up to $1,000 and a matching cash award for the school. In addition, $10,000 is available for project implementation. In total, $27,000 is available to students and schools.

Hunter Merritt – US Army Corps of Engineers John Killey – Environmental Specialist (retired) Joshua McCabe – Utility Forester, ACRT Kathryn Schulz – Water Education Specialist, DWR Leigh Ann Harrison – Nutrien Ag Solutions Mary Jade Farruggia – UC Davis Graduate Student, Ecology

Who started Caring for Our Watersheds?

Meghan Amos – Sacramento Splash

Nutrien (formerly Agrium) started the program with support from other local and national conservation partners. The Center for Land-Based Learning is Nutrien’s California conservation partner.

Nina Fontana – PhD, Ecology, UC Davis

How can I get involved? Teachers can bring Caring for Our Watersheds into their classroom or club, environmental professionals can score proposals, community members can mentor students implementing projects.

Monica Garcia – Regional Water Authority Jerome Pier – Agronomist, QualiTech, Inc. Roland Brady – Brady and Assoc. Geological Services Thomas Key – California Geological Survey Trina Camping – Literacy & Makerspace, Woodland Library

For more information about Caring for Our Watersheds, email or call 530-795-1520.

Caring for Our Watersheds is a program of: