On Wednesday, Oct. 11th, YES kicked off the 2023-24 season with the annual Fall Summit at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center. Seven teams participated with over 100 middle school and high school students and coaches in attendance; what an amazing day it was! Participants not only had the opportunity to spend time with their like-minded peers from all across the state, but also take part in six educational workshops led by organizations including Friends of the Boundary Waters, Get the Lead Out, Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District and Purpose Artisans.
The Friends of the Boundary Waters shared their passion for America’s most visited wilderness and favorite canoe spot. Did you know that BWCA consists of 1.5 million acres and has 250,000 visitors every year? Friends of the Boundary Waters then led students through team building exercises and tested their portaging skills with a number of land-based canoe challenges.
YES Students then learned about Minnesota’s beloved the bird, the loon. Kelly Amoth of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s program Get the Lead Out shared that there are an estimated 12,000 loons in the state of Minnesota. Loon’s favorite food is fish; these birds eat up to two pounds of fish per day. Amoth then went on to explain that one of the loon’s greatest threat right now is lead poisoning; loons are exposed to lead when they feed on fish that are being reeled in by angler or fish that have broken free with tackle still attached.
Students then had the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty with the Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District as they studied water quality, macro invertebrates and their impacts on aquatic ecosystems.
YES Director – Kalley Pratt – and YES Team Manager – Jake Schwinghammer – guided the students along one of Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center’s hiking trails; during this hike, students hunted for checklist items located along the trail as well as participating in discussions about their favorite plants, animals, and waterways and explored ways in which protect them.
Our hosts at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center challenged students at the mobile climbing wall.
After a long day of learning with their teammates, all of the YES teams came together as a large group for a drum circle activity that allowed them to express their feelings about the day and engage as a greater community with Purpose Artisans.
YES is so grateful to our partners and supporters including the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment through the National Science Foundation Grant 2147839 and LP Building Solutions and all that they did to make this season’s kick off a success. YES is also thankful for our YES Coaches and the intentional time they dedicate to both their students and the YES organization. YES cannot wait to be working with these coaches and students and assist these YES Teams in accomplishing their goals!