By Sam Horner
In the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota, we have had an amazing year of YES! that has produced many different projects from all three of our teams. We started with our Fall Summit in October and moved to our Winter Workshops during February and March. One of the final events for our teams is the Spring Judging Event. This event was held at the Virginia Public Library on April 24th, 2019. Three judges from the environmental field were brought in to evaluate how the students have performed. Emily Nelson of Northern Saint Louis County Soil and Water Conservation District, Julie Lucas from Hibbing Taconite Company, and Mara Spaeth from Lake Country Power were our judges this year. Each team was given time to describe their projects and to inform the judges what they were up to this year. The first team that presented was Northern Lights Community School.
Donna Hanson and her students had a lot to say about their YES! year. The students focused on water projects, but also had a lot of other projects they were excited about. They started off the year with doing a water unit in their class. Each of the students took a different water issue and did some research to present to their class. Then they participated in National Night Out, and their booth garnered a lot of attention for their invasive species talk. They continued to collect food waste from their school lunches and they worked on their greenhouse to provide the school with local food. This year they also cleaned up a local lake to them and released trout in their local waterways coming up in May. Water was not the only project, they also did some electrical testing in their school to help generated some attention to how their school uses electricity. Finally, some of their students went to the Youth Climate Summit and they were able to meet with their representatives. It was a year filled with many projects for Northern Lights Community School. After their presentation, Wrenshall High School was on deck.
Chris Gustafson and his team had worked on three projects. The first project that they spoke about was their Super High Mileage Car Competition. This is a project that the team has participated in for a few years now. They are working to create and streamline a vehicle that will get mileage that is far greater than a normal car. They will be driving it in a competition against other teams across the state. The next project was their Solar Boat Regatta. This project had them also creating and perfecting a boat that would be able to compete against other boats in several categories. This is an event that they have won past! Both these events are happening soon and we are excited to see how they perform this year. The last project they were working on was to help shield ground and rainwater from mixing with their fuel tanks. This project will help keep their area water clean and will keep their fuel tanks from contaminating anything. Last to speak on their projects was Carlton High School.
Tracy Bockbrader and her team of students had some awesome projects going on throughout the year as well. The team was able to acquire compost bins for their schools and they are in the process of replacing all their plastic ware with silverware. This will be put into action in the Fall of 2019. They also put together a poster competition to generate attention for Water Quality, Composting, and pollinators for their middle schoolers. After this, the team worked to get lights in certain rooms of their school to be LED and more efficient. They also set up a fundraiser to help raise awareness for their pollinator projects.This team even took some of their projects and present it to their school board, which is no small task, even for professional adults. With all these things going on, it was a very busy year for the Carlton YES! Team.
This year was a great year for YES! and I could not be more proud of how the teams performed. I really liked to see what the students could do when they put their heads together. This year’s awards were funded by the generosity of Lake Country Power. They were able to fund each team with an award of either $500, $300, or $200 based of where they landed in the rankings. This year, Northern Lights Community School took 1st Place and the $500 Award. Carlton High School took 2nd place and the $300 award. Finally, Wrenshall High School took the 3rd place with the $200 award.
In my first year as Regional Coordinator, I was really happy to see all the students perform as well as they did. At the Fall Summit, we only had one team show up for the event due to differing circumstances. One of the students from Carlton mentioned that it looked like they were going to have to save the world all by themselves. Hopefully after reading this, we all feel like we are helping make this planet a better place and that we are all in this together.