On a brisk early autumn day, September 28, 2022, in Spicer, MN, 120 middle and high school students gathered outdoors at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (PWELC) to learn about pollinators, healthy soil, community-building, and tips for successful eco-action projects during the Youth EcoSolutions (YES!) Fall Summit. YES! teams that participated include Lac qui Parle Valley, MACCRAY, Mankato East, Mankato West, New London-Spicer, Royalton, Sleepy Eye, and Westbrook-Walnut Grove.
Hands-on activities led by local experts kept students engaged throughout the day. Kids got their hands dirty while conducting tests to compare different soil samples during the healthy soils session led by Stephanie McLain and Jordan Welp from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NCRS). Laura Molenaar, retired New London-Spicer teacher and former YES! coach, discussed the prairie ecosystem and pollinators before teaching students how to create seed bombs using prairie seeds donated by the Kandiyohi Soil and Water Conservation District. YES! Coordinator Kalley Fosso guided students to construct “bee condos” out of simple household items, while Jasmine Nieto, another YES! Coordinator, helped participants explore ways to connect with each other and their local communities.
The event concluded with tips for award-winning team projects provided by judges from the YES! Spring Competition: Beth Mercer-Taylor from the Institute on the Environment at the University of MN and Scott Glup with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at Litchfield Wetland Management District. The 2022 Fall Summit was organized by Nieto, Fosso, and fellow YES! Coordinator Deb Groebner, and PWELC Executive Director Jennifer Swenson.
Here at YES!, we are so grateful for our students, coaches and volunteers across the state; we can’t wait to see what this year has in store as we all continue to work toward developing eco-friendly solutions for our communities.
Students learning about prairie ecology with presenter Laura Molenaar.
Lac qui Parle Valley team learning about healthy soils with Stephanie McLaine and Jordan Welp, both representing Natural Resource Conservation Service, Marshall.
MACCRAY and Royalton Teams learn more about what itmeans to work with other’s strengths in their community.
“I feel because my school got put with a group from a different school it made us need to communicate, and once we did, it honestly felt so fun and enjoyable. It was…the best time I have had,” said one student. Another stated, “I really like seeing so many people from across the state, and it was fun meeting new people and coaches who work with YES!”
Students engaging with 2021-2022 judges Scott Glup and Beth Mercer- Taylor.
WOW! Inside view of student- crafted, bee condo.
MACCRAY YES! team, Coached by Leanne Carmany, poses for a picture before leaving the Fall Summit.