A North Delta student has been awarded a $1,500 scholarship for her work maintaining a local rain garden while educating younger students about its importance to the environment.
Last week, the BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) announced the winner and runner-up for this year’s Young Conservationist Scholarship. The program was established in 2020 to “highlight the drive and passion of youth across the province who work to make B.C. a greener place,” according to a press release.
The competitive, application-based program offers up to 25 youth in grades 7 through 12 mentorship, professional development, conservation training and leadership opportunities to empower them to complete their own six-month, start-to-finish environmental initiative in their community.
Once the projects are all are completed, the participant that exceeds expectations and demonstrates conservation excellence is awarded a $1,500 scholarship and the opportunity to present their project at BCWF’s annual general meeting.
This year’s winner, Grade 9 Seaquam Secondary student Tanya Randhawa, was selected for her project that involved adopting the rain garden at North Delta’s Pinewood Elementary and promoting its importance to the students there.
Randhawa adopted the rain garden last June and, with the assistance of Cougar Creek Streamkeeper Deborah Jones (who helped build and plant the rain garden in 2015), maintained it through the summer.
“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,” Randhawa explained in a BCWF press release.
“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.”
As the seasons changed and students and students began returning to school, Randhawa designed and implemented educational presentations to engage students at the school in the green space right outside their classroom.
“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,” she said.
Randhawa contacted Pinewood’s principal, Tina Doukas, who referred her to Elisa Melan’s Grade 5 class. Over the next few months, Randhawa prepared and delivered a pair of talks, the first being an introduction to the rain garden, how it was planted and its basic anatomy.
“At this presentation, I asked students about activities they were interested in and any other questions they may have,” Randhawa said in a post on the school district’s website.
“At my next presentation in December 2022, I answered their questions and went into more detail about why Rain Gardens are important in a society where there is so much development and not nearly enough plants and open space.”
As one of the most common activities the students requested was to be able to plant something in the rain garden, Randhawa, her brother and Jones planted a test batch of daffodil bulbs in January to see how well they will grow.
The hope is that after spring break, once the weather improves, she can offer a planting day for students at the school and continue to engage not only with Melan’s Grade 5 class, but the entire student body.
Randhawa said the inspiration for her project came from a “Think Global, Plan & Lead Local” workshop hosted by Youth4Actioncin March of 2022, as well as STEMastery, a school club at Seaquam wherein high-school students mentor students in grades 5-7 in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) related topics.
“I really enjoyed being a part of both these initiatives and thought my conservation project would be a great way of combining the things I had learned from them,” Randhawa said.
“I really hope that the Grade 5 students remember what they have learned from my work with them. I feel it is extremely important that we keep children engaged with these sorts of projects so they can build connections and understand that their future depends on the actions they take.”
After high school, Randhawa hopes to pursue a career as a family doctor while continuing to participate in conservation-related events and volunteering where she can.
BCWF is accepting applications for the 2023-2024 cohort of the Young Conservationist Scholarship Program until March 31.
For more info or to apply, visit bcwf.bc.ca/young-conservationist-scholarship-program.
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