Student reaches top 10 in watershed competition

By Rob Vogt
A Grade 9 student from Willow Creek Composite High School has qualified for the top 10 in a provincial contest with a chance to win a prize of $1,000 for herself and another $1,000 for the school.
Mary-Ann Toone will travel to Wetaskiwin on May 12 to give an oral presentation on bat boxes, her solution to helping care for the watershed.
It all started when former student Shannon Hart contacted teacher Malik Salman about the organization “Caring for our Watersheds” and a contest they are holding.
Salman introduced the contest, discussed what a watershed is and explained that Claresholm is in the Oldman Watershed.
Students formed groups or could work as individuals, identified an issue and its solution, and made a project.
“What we thought could help watersheds in our community,” Toone said.
Her solution was bat boxes.
“Because bats are beneficial to a watershed,” Toone said.
Bats help spread seeds, and deal with insects harmful to plants.
The bat box has a roof but no bottom, with a narrow chamber that bats can find shelter in.
“It tries to mimic what they usually try to hide in,” Toone said, adding hiding places in nature include crevices, rocks, and trees.
She goes to a cabin in B.C. and there is no comparison in the number of bats.
“There is a significant number more in B.C. than Claresholm,” Toone said.
She would like to change that.
The deadline for the contest was Feb. 28 and students had a month to do their projects and submit them online.
Groups were made up of one to four students competing for prizes ranging from $1,000 for first to $300 for 10th place.
Whatever money the student wins, that amount is matched to go the student’s school or organization. There is also funding to do the project.
Out of 275 projects and more than 580 students Alberta wide, Toone was selected to the top 10.
She now prepares to go to Wetaskiwin on May 12 to give an oral presentation on her project.
All 10 finalists will do the same to determine who wins.
Her design is ready. She plans to build a prototype to take with her to the judges in Wetaskiwin.
Each student has also been connected with a mentor, with some expertise in the field of each project, to help out.
Toone wants to get the community involved as well, trying to get some students to build a bat box.
She also plans to contact town council to see if she can get permission to put bat boxes at the Frog Creek Wetlands, and parks around town.
Each bat box can accommodate up to 50 bats.
“The more bats there are, the better our watershed is,” Toone said.