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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Crawford Nature Preserve, Fort Thomas, Kentucky, USA

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Crawford Nature Preserve, Fort Thomas, Kentucky, USA
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Registered: December 2020
City/Town/Province: Fort Thomas
Posts: 1
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My community service is focused on the revival of the Crawford Preserve Outdoor Classroom and Educational Area on the grounds of Highlands High School. Currently, I am leading a native tree planting project and the creation of a trail system within the preserve. Prior to project implementation, invasive honeysuckle species had to be cleared for the native trees, including Maclura p. 'White Shield' and Cornus f. 'Cherokee Princess', that students will be able to study and learn from in the future. This area of the preserve will serve as the first of several study areas for students within the district and community members while leading to the ultimate revitalization of the Crawford Preserve to its former educational glory. The future project plan includes the establishment of further conservation and educational areas, including a produce garden, community compost, and more. The area is being prepared for the construction of a true outdoor classroom. Students of the district and community members will have access to explore and learn from the area.
As a 2020 US Youth Ambassador (USYA) for the US Department of State Cultural Exchange Program with Costa Rica, I am required to complete a Follow-On project applying the skills and knowledge gained during the modified 6-week summer virtual program to make a positive change within my community. This Spanish immersion and youth leadership development program normally entails a 3-week stay with an international host family and participation in various educational activities focused on civic engagement, environmental issues, and leadership. Dedicated to community service and making a positive change, the program was the perfect development opportunity as a leader to become a global citizen and elicit change within my community.
For my required Follow-On project, as a 3-year member and president of Green Club, I combined my passions for community service and environmental conservation to create a project beneficial to the local community. I identified two issues to address within my project 1) poor vegetation diversity near the local high school and 2) a lack of personal connections with the environment among students throughout the district. I recognized the local need for community engagement with nature to develop generations of students who care deeply about the environment. My passion and demand to see change at a local level in environmental sustainability and activism led me to lead a project in partnership with my high school focusing on an abandoned yet previously vibrant learning space of Crawford Nature Preserve on the campus of my high school.
With goals identical to that of an Apprentice Ecologist project I decided to complete my project on behalf of the Nicodemus Wilderness Project. Through this Crawford Nature Preserve revitalization project, I have and will continue to act as a leader within my local community and nationally through engagement in environmental conservation projects. By educating local students and creating an area where studying nature is possible, young people will be more actively engaged and likely to continue rebuilding the environment of our communities. Actions taken under my direction have begun a local movement to improve the local natural areas and living conditions through education, activism, and action.
The project is being led by me under the mentorship of Mrs. Epperson, the Environmental Science Teacher at Highlands High School. I have and will continue to go above and beyond the 20-hour Follow-On project required minimum effort, as this project means more than simply fulfilling a requirement.

To accomplish the project goals, I first made a detailed 3-year project plan. With approval from my mentor, I presented the proposal to the school board to receive funding. Once funded, I met with my school principal to receive final approval to work on school grounds. Finally, I applied for the Campbell County Extension Office Stewardship Grant and received a $1,000 grant to fund the tree planting project. I led cleanup days for the Nature Preserve, where students removed trash in preparation for honeysuckle clearing and tree planting. I’ve met with a trail expert and arborist for guidance in creating a safe trail system within the preserve and how to properly handle the invasive honeysuckle. Our team has surveyed the site, begun invasive species removal, created an accessible entry point to the preserve, and developed a safe trail system.

Initially desiring to replace the substantial amounts of removed invasive honeysuckle by planting 20 saplings prior to the conclusion of 2020 our project progress was slowed due to health precautions in the area brought by the ongoing pandemic. The original tree planting day was to have student and community member volunteers assist in shifts to reduce exposure and large gathering. Two consecutive clearing and planting days on Sunday November 21st and November 28th respectively were planned months in advance. Two days prior to the planned clearing day health guidelines were tightened in my area, not allowing groups affiliated with the high school to meet, and the teacher I was working closely with contracted COVID-19. Instead on November 28th my family cleared a large portion of the nature preserve entrance of honeysuckle. On December 11th, I led a small planting session where a group of Highlands High School students were taught how to properly plant a sapling and care for them. Five trees were planted in the winter of 2020 and 15 more will be planting in the spring of 2021. This project will continue for years to come as more funding is provided by the school district and county. The end goal is to diversify the natural area to better provide for local organic life and create an area where students can study.

In early spring, more saplings will be planted and it is hoped that by the end of the school year creation of a nature trail system will be completed, we will receive a conservation easement for the area, and an outdoor classroom construction will begin.

This project has and will continue to serve as an opportunity for student community service and the revitalization of my high school’s outdoor classroom area that will foster students’ relationships with the environment. The goal is to create students and young adults who are actively aware and take measures to protect the environment throughout their lifetime. Promoting conservation efforts and educating students of all ages has already occurred with the progress made on our project. Fostering these connections now will create a generation of students involved in environmental activism.

The overall goal is to create an outdoor classroom where teachers of all subjects can teach safely and effectively in an outdoor setting. Our project will also increase biodiversity and provide a food source for the local habitat in the Crawford Preserve on the property of Highlands HS. We will additionally promote the return of native plants to the state of Kentucky. Renewing the attraction and adding focal points within the preserve will encourage students, as well as the surrounding community, to learn about these beautiful native trees and study them as they mature.

This project will continue, based on the long term project plan, for years to come as the project’s sustainability is an important aspect I have focused on. The proposal to the School Board included a new Sustainable Learning Teacher to continue implementing new conservation projects. With support from the school district and student involvement, this project will grow from a neglected, overgrown area to a vibrant educational area focused on environmental and conservation areas. In the long-term plan, various education areas, including a pollinator garden, produce garden, and bird blind are to be constructed.
Although implementing a service project during a pandemic has elicited a multitude of challenges, I utilized leadership skills and knowledge concerning environmental issues and looked at my community’s needs to develop a new project that allowed me to pursue a passion of mine and create an educational space to be used for years to come. Through my involvement in this project, I’ve become more engaged in environmental activism and learned about environmental science extensively. Through challenges faced and project research I’ve learned strategies to protect trees from weather and local wildlife, proper invasive honeysuckle removal methods, designs for a safe and sustainable trail system, the legal process of receiving a conservation easement, how to write a project grant, and how to meet with local educational leaders and environmental experts. It has been rewarding to develop relationships with community members who learned from this educational area at the height of its use in the mid-1900s. I will continue to utilize the knowledge and skills gained as I further my involvement in environmental projects and efforts.
I’ve been able to develop my leadership skills and learn from mentors throughout this experience. I encourage students to look within their community and analyze what is in need of attention. I recommend connecting these opportunities with personal interests. As a USYA, the program stressed that every local community has its own issues that must be faced prior to offering international assistance. While initially, the thought of leading a project during an ongoing pandemic was daunting, by focusing on outdoor areas I was able to complete the necessary project requirements and benefit my community while meeting all current health precautions.
Date: December 31, 2020 Views: 3896 File size: 23.9kb, 85.8kb : 647 x 485
Hours Volunteered: 240
Volunteers: 25
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 14 to 18
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): .4
Native Trees Planted: 5 (will be 20)
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