DANBURY, CONN. — Danbury resident Eva George recently received First Place honors in the Western Connecticut State University 2020 NOAA B-WET Stewardship Competition. George attends Westside Middle School Academy. The 12-year-old science enthusiast is entering eighth grade.
Dr. Theodora Pinou, WCSU professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences and faculty curator of the H. G. Dowling Herpetological Collection, runs Finding Our Way: An Experiential Watershed Learning Program for Middle School Children and Their Families, an environmental science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills education program. With a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Pinou provides students from regional middle schools with a wide-ranging educational experience focusing on water resources and ecosystem biodiversity as part of the NOAA Office of Education’s Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Program.
Traditionally, the program offers 30 seventh-grade middle school students and their families a yearlong integrated environmental community stewardship experience focused on New England watersheds. Due to the coronavirus, the program this spring was restricted to independent stewardship projects. There were six applicants in the competition; five from Danbury and one from New Fairfield.
“I applaud the teachers for trying to motivate their kids to apply and engage in personally rewarding activities,” Pinou said. “With the ongoing COVID-19 situation, I know it was a challenge.
“Eva did an outstanding job documenting her stewardship time, and an impressive job including local community leaders in her development,” Pinou added.
George’s commitment to her watershed stewardship earned her the top $100 prize. Her project was developed out of her concern for the health of her family and friends, and their pets, all of which use the lawn by their home for recreation. George learned about the chemicals used by the landscaping company, and suggested that manually removing dandelions was a more efficient way to control this weed, and in return, increases insect and pollinator diversity. Her project included observation and experimentation, as well as using her data and observations to communicate alternative approaches to managing recreational spaces that also support healthier watersheds because there is less chemical runoff.
George’s teacher at Westside Middle School Academy, Beth Manning, also was recognized for sharing the stewardship opportunity with her students and encouraging them to participate in safe, personally relevant and impactful outdoor learning experiences. The Finding Our Way program will recognize Manning by awarding $100 toward outdoor learning classroom supplies for next year.
Judges included Pinou, Finding Our Way Project Assistant Amanda Moline and WCSU Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Hannah Reynolds.
Pinou said, “Eva aims to continue her research for her 8th-grade science fair project, and the judges wish her lots of luck!”
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