Spotlight on young nature leaders: Sammie Heard
In honour of International Youth Day, we at Nature Canada would like to take a moment to appreciate the contributions that Canadian youth make towards conservation every single day.
With school participation and continued awareness, the possibilities for limiting waste are endless-one of our Young Nature Leader bursary winners has seized an opportunity to contribute in a huge way.
Sammie Heard was a Grade 11 student at J.W. Gerth Public School in Kitchener, Waterloo when she was awarded one of five $1,000 Young Nature Leader grants from Nature Canada.
Her application outlined an innovative incentive program called “Green Bellies,” that aims to reduce single-use packaging in the lunches at her school. Her success was covered in an article by the Waterloo Region Record in June.
Sammie’s program started officially in May. Students used iPads to scan a QR code every time they packed a litterless lunch, with the incentive of winning a trip to the Huron Nature Center for their class. The numbers were collected and the winning classes were then selected for the prize-an opportunity to be surrounded by nature at the Huron Nature Center.
Sammie hopes that she can drive her school to be completely free of plastic waste.
“Now, more than ever, change needs to happen,” she said. Her hope is to educate young people about the crisis of single-use packaging, and that it is unnecessary when there are sustainable options.
“It’s my hope to ignite an internal flame and drive others to make a change in their own lives.”
On April 24, Sammie attended the eco-fest at her school with many families who were very interested in the Green Bellies program. She educated parents and students on the reality of recycling and how the key to truly benefiting nature is to reduce. She provided recipes and held a raffle for reusable lunch containers that she bought herself.
In June, Sammie told us she was “blown away” to announce that, within a month of Green Bellies being implemented at the school, students had reported 5129 litterless lunches.
She later took the top kindergarten, primary, junior and fourth overall classes to the Huron Nature Center. Activities included a pond study, iPad photo scavenger hunt, time on the playground and many other fun activities. The attendees concluded their day with a biodegradable watermelon treat.
Sammie reported that she still has $600, so she reached out to two other elementary schools in her region with hopes to start Green Bellies there in the fall.
All of us at Nature Canada are extremely proud of Sammie’s accomplishments and are excitedly waiting to hear about her continued success with the program.
To read about more of our Young Nature Leader bursary recipients, click here.