On October 3rd 2018, YES! teams from around the west, central, and southern regions of Minnesota came together for the 2018 YES! Fall Summit at Prairie Woods ELC. About 130 students and coaches were engaged in learning about projects they could potentially do at their school around the environment, sustainability, and water quality. The student sessions include the Eco Project Sharing session, Water Quality session, and the Flying Squirrel team challenge.
The Eco Project Sharing Session was to give students the opportunity to talk to experts in the fields of local foods, land restoration, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and climate change and to think of projects they want to implement at their school around these topics. The 5 speakers that were present were Kira Liu from Climate Generation, Ben Larson from MNyou Youth Garden, Rick Reimer from Kandiyohi County Soil and Water Conservation District, Dan Tepfer from Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, and Tom McDougall from YES!. Students had the option to talk about past projects that have been done at their school to give the other schools some insight to what teams are doing. After students shared, students spoke one on one with the presenters about their employment responsibilities, how the experts can help them at their school, and what projects around those fields are possible. One speaker said “It’s great to see the students run off with so many questions and ideas of what they want to do at their school.” Students and coaches alike learned about so many great things that they could accomplish in their community.
The water quality session was broken into three rotations, each with a unique take on water in our state, country, and world. Jon Morales with Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District spoke with the students about why water quality matters and why it is important for each team to complete a water project this year. He touched on projects that have been completed in the past and then allowed students to brainstorm what projects they could do in their community that would have a positive impact on local water. He also demonstrated some of the equipment students may use while doing a water quality project (secchi disk/tube, thermometer, and others) and helped them figure out who in their community they would connect with to help them with a project involving local water (like a local watershed). Tina Wolbers with the Department of Natural Resources spoke with students about aquatic invasive species (AIS). She helped them understand what AIS is, what their impact on the environment is, and what the DNR is trying to do to rid of them. Students participated in an activity that taught them how to promote the adoption of sustainable behaviors, as it related to AIS as well as all other environmental aspects. Tina mentioned how “this is a very important topic since that is how problems will change but unfortunately it often gets overlooked and she is excited that young people are learning to do it.” Garry Bennett, an area hydrologist with the Department of Natural Resources, and his assistant Krista, played the Watershed Game with students. This game is an interactive tool that helped students and coaches understand the connection between land use and water quality. Participants learned how a variety of land uses impact water and natural resources, increased their knowledge of best management practices (BMPs), and learned how their choices could prevent adverse impacts.
A student favorite of the day was the Flying Squirrel. It was a chance for students to enjoy the outdoors, have fun with fellow YES! students, and challenge themselves in ways they probably never have before. This is a 40 foot high rope challenge where a team of students belay a “squirrel” into the air. While flying through the tree tops suspended by a rope, they learned about what it really takes to work as a team, trying your best, and that not all people are facing the same challenge!