Monday, November 14, 2016

Clean Water Campaign

This year, our Picture Chelan County Photo Contest received 75 entries from 19 photographers. The winning photographs are featured in our 2017 stewardship calendar. You can purchase yours today for $10 at our office!

One of the goals of the contest is to spread awareness about our clean water campaign. Chelan County still has many water bodies that do not meet water quality standards. You can always access an updated water quality factsheet for the Wenatchee River and its tributaries at

Clean water is essential to healthy habitats for animals, as well as for clean drinking water sources.
There are ways for you to help! Below are just a few of the changes you can make to create a better future for yourself, your family, your community, and your environment. 

In Your Home

Use low or no phosphorus detergents and soaps. One pound of phosphorus can grow 700 pounds of algae. Too much algae reduces the amount of oxygen available for fish and aquatic life.  

Conserve water! Use it wisely. There is the same amount of water on earth for all 7.5 billion of us. Only 1% of all of the water is fresh, liquid water that we (humans) can use for drinking, cooking, and many other uses.  

Properly maintain your septic system. Without regular maintenance, septic systems can fail or overflow. Spills or leaks from a septic tank can cause raw sewage to pollute drinking water supplies and nearby rivers and streams. For more information and a list of qualified service providers, contact the Chelan-Douglas Health District at (509)886-6450 or visit Visit the USDA Rural Development website for information on septic system repair programs.

In Your Yard

Many of us use fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides to keep our lawns green and our gardens productive. When we treat yard care as an all-out war, the ‘arsenal’ of modern chemicals can take a toll on beneficial insects, wildlife and fish, not to mention children and pets. When storm water flows over our yards and gardens it takes pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers with it all the way to rivers, lakes and streams. These chemicals poison wildlife and absorb oxygen from the water. By using natural alternatives, such as compost, in place of chemical fertilizers and limiting pesticide use to judicious, targeted applications, you can have a beautiful backyard without causing collateral damage.

Keep Invasives at Bay. Noxious, or invasive, plant species can outcompete native plants. They can destroy native plant and animal habitat, damage recreational opportunities and clog waterways. Controlling noxious weeds is good stewardship and it’s the law. To learn more, consult the Chelan County Noxious Weed Board (, the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board (, or the Nature Conservancy ( Our native plant workshop will be a free informational event on February 11th, 2017. If you are interested in purchasing native plants, check out our native plant sale going on through March 1st, 2017:

Restore Riparian Areas. Let us help you figure out how to create healthier streamside habitat in the Wenatchee Valley. If you are a streamside landowner, we may have funding to help create a project. Benefits of riparian plantings and restoration projects include: bank stabilization, weed control, shading, and flood attenuation, as well as providing habitat for fish and wildlife. For additional information, contact Sandy Letzing at or (509) 436-1601.

With Your Vehicles

Use a commercial car wash. Washing your car at a commercial car wash ensures that the pollutants like oil and other chemicals on your car go into a sewer system and get treated at a wastewater treatment plant, instead of washing directly into streams and rivers through storm drains.

Keep your car in working order. Fix car leaks quickly and dispose of fluids properly. Oil and other substances that leak from our cars onto roads, driveways, and parking lots are washed into waterways by rain and melting snow. That oil is toxic to people and wildlife.

With Your Animals

Keep livestock out of waterways. A 1,400 pound cow and 1,200 pound horse produce roughly 88 and 60 pounds of waste per day, respectively. Left exposed to the weather, this manure can contribute problematic bacteria and nutrients to nearby waterways. By fencing your livestock out of streams and properly composting manure you can reap the benefits of this natural fertilizer without negatively impacting water quality. For more information on livestock exclusion fencing and manure management contact the Cascadia Conservation District at (509)664-9370 or visit

Pick up after your pets. Dogs and other pets produce waste with lots of toxic bacteria. If that bacteria gets into the water, the water becomes increasingly unsafe to drink for animals and humans.

Next year’s photo contest launches May 1st, 2017 and closes October 1st, 2017.
To learn more about water conservation in our community, look at

~ Ava

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Environmental Education and STEM

     A large part of what I do at Cascadia is educate the youth in our district’s schools. Recently, the city councils of Chelan and Wenatchee voted to join our district! This is very exciting news for us, because it now means that the district may help in all areas of Chelan County, no exclusions! In relation to my role, we have traditionally still taught in school districts within the city limits of Chelan and Wenatchee. Today I wanted to talk more about why environmental education is important, what my history has been with environmental education, and how that shapes what I want to do.

      We’ve seen a major push, in the last 10 years or so, towards STEM education. President George W. Bush introduced the American Competitiveness Initiative in 2006 to essentially double federal funding for STEM education in schools (Bush). In 2009, President Barack Obama introduced the Educate to Innovate initiative to not only provide additional funding, but to also encourage businesses to participate and be a part of STEM education (Educate to Innovate).

    The increased focus and attention on STEM education is not too surprising, considering the shift in our daily lives and how much technology can play a role in it. Education can be slow to change, but these initiatives are trying to speed up that process. I do believe everyone should have access to the same education, but there are many barriers to that goal. Public and private sectors are beginning to come together to face these inequities, but there is still a long ways to go. Some examples include CoSTEM:

"The Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM)comprised of 13 agencies including all of the mission-science agencies and the Department of Education are facilitating a cohesive national strategy, with new and repurposed funds, to increase the impact of federal investments in five areas: 1) improving STEM instruction in preschool through 12th grade; 2.) increasing and sustaining public and youth engagement with STEM; 3.) improving the STEM experience for undergraduate students; 4.) better serving groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields; and 5.) designing graduate education for tomorrow's STEM workforce." (Educate to Innovate) “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math: Education for Global Leadership.”

The nonprofit Changing the Equation is backed by business and has support from the federal government. Below are some figures of how data collected shows both inequities in resources and how job opportunities are projected to change in the coming years in our state:

     Before I began volunteering with the Ocean Discovery Institute, they had just received an award from the Obama administration for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. Their mission is to “empower young people from underserved urban communities to transform their lives, their community, and our world as scientific and conservation leaders” (By Engaging In All Action).

     In my role, I volunteered in the Ocean Science Explorers program. During my time there, I really enjoyed assisting the students use tools like microscopes for the first time. We would take the students on field trips to parts of San Diego to get them outside. When the buses pulled up to the tide pools in La Jolla, the students were amazed to explore the vast abundance of marine life literally in their backyard. Another field trip was taking them to our headquarters, which was a series of trailers in Pacific Beach. There we would allow the students to create their own robotic hydroplanes and test their creations in the pool. Our goal was not just to teach facts and figures, but to show the students what all of their efforts could lead to. Our focus was to inspire them to imagine a career path in STEM, which for many of the students would result in a vast departure from what other members of their families may be doing or have done.

     During my time at USD, I made an effort to actively participate in social justice causes and try to experience something different from what I knew. I reflected a lot on the differences between the opportunities I have been exposed to, and how they differ from the opportunities these students may have. I went to public school K-12, and had the opportunity to take physics, calculus, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, and go to my community college through Running Start if my school didn’t offer what I needed. Having those classes prepared me to go on to a private school college education and major in a degree that included several science courses.

     Being a self-proclaimed environmentalist, I also must reflect on my hypocrisy on a daily basis. It’s easy to think that our education system is doomed and that we’re using outdated techniques and technology. However, I think there are a lot of reasons to be really positive and optimistic! Sal Khan is the founder and director of Khan Academy, a web based collection of YouTube videos that can be used to refresh a set of skills or as a supplemental learning tool. It is one of the prime examples today of what open source education can look like.

“We have all these doom-and-gloom arguments about America losing its primacy and all this stuff about our math scores. But if you take a serious look over the last 30 or 40 years, if you said, “What are the most innovative companies in the world? Where is the innovation happening?” And if you just follow and ask that question, year after year after year, it’s getting more and more focused in America” (Education for Everyone).

     With all of the advances in technology and innovation happening, it’s time to realize how important science education can be and how transformative it can be for students. With the conservation district, I have the opportunity now to offer free science education lessons to local schools. The curriculum is provided by the Franklin Conservation District. I offer a week long option, aptly named Wheat Week, where I use Wheat as a teaching tool to showcase lessons about soil conservation, the water cycle, and watersheds. I also offer Water on Wheels lessons, which offer a variety of environmental science lessons that are interactive and engaging to students grades K-6th.

     I really appreciate the opportunity to bring science education to classrooms that otherwise might not get the chance to explore the material in depth. Hopefully, even if they don’t retain the information I teach them, it ignites a spark in them that motivates them to want to take an interest in math, science, or engineering. I’m not teaching robotics or molecular biology, but just getting our youth familiar and comfortable with basic scientific concepts may actually allow them to seek out advanced science education and not write it off as boring or too difficult. It’s not a cure all, but it is a step in the right direction.

To learn more about STEM in Washington State, look at

For more information about the programs I help implement through Cascadia, check out If you're a teacher in Chelan, Douglas, or Okanogan counties and want to have me come to your classroom, send me an email at

Thanks for reading!

~ Ava

Bush, George W. American Competiveness Initiative. 2 February 2006.
By Engaging in All Action with Curiosity and Commitment, We Can Ignite a Passion in Each Person That Collectively Will Benefit Our World. "Home." Ocean Discovery Institute.
"Education for Everyone: An Interview with Sal Khan." McKinsey & Company. September 2013.
"Educate to Innovate." The White House. The White House.
"Franklin Conservation District." Franklin Conservation District.