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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Fox Chapel Area High School

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Fox Chapel Area High School
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Registered: September 2018
City/Town/Province: PITTSBURGH
Posts: 1
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My name is Brandon Brewster, I am currently a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a major and career in environmental science. During my junior and senior year of high school, I developed a profound passion for conservation, volunteerism, and sustainability. This passion led me to become the President of the Fox Chapel Area High School Environmental Club and lead my fellow students down the rabbit hole of what environmental activism means to me.
During my time as President, I connected with local organizations and set students up with a plethora of volunteering opportunities, both to complete their required service hours and to establish a sense of pride in their community. Some of these activities included volunteering at a local urban farm, that sought to provide low-cost fresh produce to impoverished neighborhoods. Another service was tree plantings Through Tree Pittsburgh, I became a certified tree tender and pushed students to come plant trees and build up communities all while having fun. Finally, I discovered the Nicodemus Wilderness Project website, pushing the idea to go out into your community and make a difference, an idea that I could get behind. I decided to take the environmental awareness fight back home to my high school.
Back at my high school, I set up meetings with Administration members such as the school principal, the superintendent, and fellow supporting teachers, to discuss the creation of a community garden on the high school property. This garden would be the first project of its kind at Fox Chapel, open to students, faculty and in the future community members. However, it was not all easy. We faced opposition from some faculty that stated it was unnecessary and would provide no benefit to the school. Also the area we established the garden was originally planned to be paved and made into additional parking which brought additional protest. However, I managed to gather the support of staff and students in favor of the garden and initiated its construction towards the end of the school year in June. In the meantime, we gathered materials needed for the garden. Everything was kept as cheap as possible and as sustainable as we could manage. The metal posts we used were donated to us from a students family. We raised some funds through an earth day bake sale which we put towards netting to keep the deer and other animals out. And we buried a foot of chicken wire all around the perimeter to keep burrowing animals out. Our garden occupies a fifty by fifty foot square in a rather swampy area that also used to be an old home. It was very fun to brainstorm ideas to overcome the more rocky sections as well as the poor drainage. We built our own rainwater collection system that drains into a basin in which we empty out into a donated storage barrel.
Our garden is very important and can prove to be a valuable tool to the school and the environment. Instead of becoming a parking lot it became a site that students and community members can come together and focus on cultivating a more positive mindset towards the environment as well as some fresh produce. It teaches students fundamental lessons in responsibility, by taking care of the grounds and ensuring everything is safe and healthy. The garden also serves many ecological benefits, it is a place for water to permeate through the dirt and back into the water table. Instead of cutting down all of the trees in the two-acre property those mature trees remain standing tall. These trees offer important ecological benefits such as reducing the temperature of the surrounding area by providing shade and through transpiration. Their roots prevent erosion and help to capture runoff, which prevents pollution of our natural waterways. And mature trees provide a great habitat space for native species. Fresh food can be grown to supplement and possibly replace some of the highly processed and preserved foods in the school's cafeteria. This allows students to obtain a more healthy alternative to normal school lunches and gives students a voice in what they would like to eat as they can grow it from the ground.
Leading this garden construction project has helped inspire me to continue pursuing environmental science with a supercharged passion. I love to help and inspire others to seek out their fascinations and this project has allowed me to do just that. Connecting with fellow students through something so fundamental such as gardening and taking care of a life has helped us all develop a stronger bond for one another. It has made it easier to introduce people to the world of environmental science and provides community members with a chance to open their minds to lifestyle changes that both help themselves and the environment. I hope in the future I will continue to have these great opportunities to share the beliefs of the Nicodemus Wilderness Project, as well as my own, with others through projects like this one.
Date: October 10, 2018 Views: 528 File size: 22.3kb, 278.8kb : 960 x 720
Hours Volunteered: 50+
Volunteers: 20
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 15-18
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): .8
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