The conservation efforts of two teenagers have been recognized this spring through the Young Conservationist Scholarship Program. $1,500 in scholarship funds were granted to the winner of the program, ninth grader Tanya, and $500 was granted to runner-up Prabhnoor, in grade 12.
The Young Conservationist Scholarship Program (YCSP) was established in 2020 to highlight the drive and passion of youth across the province who work to make B.C. a greener place. This competitive, application-based program offers youth between grades 7 and 11 mentorship, professional development, conservation training, and leadership opportunities to empower them to complete their own start-to-finish environmental initiative in their community.
“There are so many driven young people in British Columbia working to protect the beautiful place we call home,” says Chris Lim, Director of Education & Volunteer Engagement at B.C. Wildlife Federation, “This scholarship program enables us at the BCWF to foster a community for these passionate youth and give them the resources they need to spring their ideas into action.”
The 2022-23 YCSP Cohort smiles for a virtual group photo.
Tanya, this year’s YCSP winner, knew from the beginning of her project that she wanted to focus on educating the next generation of environmentalists:
The main goal of my project was to get younger kids interacting with green spaces around them. Kids are so curious about nature. It gives me hope that we can fix the climate crisis, that we can solve this problem.
Knowing that she wanted to inspire children to become environmental stewards helped guide Tanya to Pinewood Rain Garden, a local green space on an elementary school property. When learning that the rain garden was open for adoption, she jumped at the opportunity to enhance that space while using it as a teaching tool for Pinewood Elementary school students.
“A rain garden is designed to soak up water and help replenish groundwater. They are helpful in the summer or during droughts, because they store water efficiently.” explains Tanya, “Instead of rainwater just running down pipes, rain gardens make sure the water is absorbed by plants or stored as groundwater. In our current day and age, they are really important, because they help manage water even with heavy development.”
Throughout the summer, Tanya spent her time maintaining Pinewood Rain Garden. When the seasons shifted and students began returning to school, Tanya designed and implemented an educational presentation for a grade 5 class to engage students in the green space that was right outside their classroom.
Looking into the future, Tanya hopes not only to continue to engage the fifth graders at Pinewood elementary, but the entire school body. She has already begun installing plants on a test plot, so she can offer a planting day for the elementary students next year. She also wants to expand her reach, potentially establishing a network or green club at various schools.
Left – Tanya teaches fifth graders about rain gardens. Right- Tanya maintains Pinewood Rain Garden
Prabhnoor, the runner-up of this year’s YCSP, focused her efforts on engaging her local community in an awareness campaign about native and invasive species. She became impassioned to build awareness after working at the Osoyoos Desert Centre:
Working at the Desert Centre, I saw a lot of damage that was being done by invasive species to the endangered antelope-brush ecosystem. You can see how even one invasive species can spread throughout the properties so quickly if there isn’t some type of intervention. That was the root of my inspiration to raise awareness of invasive and native species.
To raise awareness, Prabhnoor partnered with a local print shop, Happy Paper Parlor, to print and distribute pamphlets on invasive species that threaten local ecosystems in Osoyoos, B.C. She distributed the pamphlets and connected with her community to educate them on invasive species identification, and management.
“Much of Osoyoos’ economy relies on agriculture, and a direct threat to that industry is invasive species. Many of my friends’ families have lost a lot of yield to invasive species, and it affects our entire community”, Prabhnoor reflects, “Raising awareness of the risks of invasive species could prevent more loss and damage to our local ecosystem.”
In addition to raising awareness, Prabhnoor also fundraised $120 for the Osoyoos Desert Centre. She accumulated several native yarrow plants through in-kind support from local greenhouses, and gifted them to community members who donated.
“I’m glad I was able to make a difference, and that my community is more aware of native and invasive species. In B.C. we have so much biodiversity, and we’ve all got to work together to protect that.”
Left – Prabhnoor smiles in Osoyoos Lake. Right – A native Yarrow Plant dontated to Prabhnoor’s project.
The BCWF is currently accepting applications for the 2023-24 cohort of the Young Conservationist Scholarship Program. Click here and apply today!