Caring For Our Watersheds (CFOW) is an inquiry-based program sponsored by Agrium Inc. and coordinated by The City of Calgary. Aimed at creating a new generation of environmental stewards, the program asks students in grades 7 to 12 to answer the question “What can you do to improve your watershed?”
After researching their local watershed, identifying an environmental concern and developing a realistic and creative solution, students submit a 1,000 word proposal outlining their project. The top 10 finalists present their ideas to a panel of community judges and are eligible to win between $1,000 and $300. In addition, there is $10,000 in implementation funding available for students to turn their projects into reality. Schools receive $100 for every 10 entries and all finalists win matching cash awards for their school. Last year, a Calgary school earned over $4,500!
Almost 280 youth from Southern Alberta participated in the 2016 CFOW contest. The 2016 winners, Rebecca McCollister and Kaylee Nishizawa from Centennial High School, were concerned about water conservation and the use of herbicides and pesticides in their community. When researching these issues, the students became interested in the use of mulch on gardens and flowerbeds. Mulch is used to inhibit weed growth, retain soil moisture and prevent frost heaving and soil temperature fluctuations.
Armed with information about the benefits of using mulch, the students organized a “Community Mulch Day” at the Mid-Sun Community Centre. Hundreds of residents picked up free mulch provided by The City of Calgary and learned about the benefits of mulch use. This project was made possible by the CFOW program.
For educators, CFOW provides the opportunity to earn funds for their classroom, interact with industry mentors and experts on environmental issues, and develop projects with real-world results. Resources are available to help guide students through the process of identifying a watershed issue, developing a realistic solution and crafting a winning proposal. Curriculum connections for the Alberta Program of Study make it easy to incorporate the contest into any science or social studies class.
If you would like more information about the CFOW program or a free in-class watershed presentation, please contact the Southern Alberta program coordinator at Barbara.Kowalzik@calgary.ca.
“CRAZ would like to thank Barbara Kowalzik for contributing this article on Caring For Our Watersheds. The City of Calgary is a member of CRAZ” Tanya Carlson, Engagement Program Manager, CRAZ