New London-Spicer YES! Team Searching for Aquatic Invasive Species

The New London–Spicer YES! Team has been spending part of their summer searching local lakes and rivers for aquatic invasive species. Through the Kandiyohi County Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force, 12 New London-Spicer YES! students were able to fund a summer project to help build up the new AquaHunter App. This smartphone and computer application was created by the task force for the general public. It allows anyone to be able to take a photo of aquatic vegetation and some aquatic animals and the app will tell you the species and if it is invasive or native to Minnesota. Since the application is so new, the database of pictures needs to be built up, which is where the New London-Spicer YES! Team comes in.

Four paddling trips will take place this summer with the Central/West Central YES! Coordinator and Stephanie Felt, Kandiyohi Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator. Lake Andrew, Games Lake, and Norway Lake have already been examined. A stretch of the Crow River, Nest Lake, and Green Lake await the team in the following weeks to come. While paddling, the team collects and identifies different native and non-native plants. Then they take multiple photos of the collection and add them to the AquaHunter app.

So far, invasive species have been found in lakes that are not reported to have them at this point. Samples were collected and handed into the DNR for closer review. The hope for the summer is to get the application more accurate so the public can correctly use it to identify aquatic species while encouraging the general public to be more aware of what is being transferred from lake to lake.

For more information about aquatic invasive species or the AquaHunter App, please visit

Royalton High School YES! Group Presents in Italy

Written and Submitted By:  Marty Bratsch, YES! Coach


A group of 12 students and their instructors traveled to Rome Italy to present to a group of citizens from Rome the projects they have worked with in the past several years. The group also wanted to learn some of Europe’s activities using alternative energies and their vision of dealing with environmental problems. The group’s mission was to meet with residents and share the idea of students taking an active role in their schools and communities to create a better environment.

The idea for the trip was started approximately four years ago when the students, who had heard of a previous group traveling to Italy, requested that their group travel to Rome and meet with students there and learn about some of Rome’s technologies and practices. Our students worked hard to prepare projects and presentations to share with the Italians. Of the projects shared were Brooke Tschida sharing her experience of working with the electric car which won the Minnesota super mileage competition, David Wimer shared the solar boat project that he had been involved with. All 12 students on the trip were responsible for sharing various projects that our YES! group had been involved with.

The students began their journey on April 13th when they left Minnesota on a flight bound for Rome. On our first day, we met students from Rome’s school system and got to know some of the Italians we’d be spending time with. The second day, the group travelled back to Rome to complete their tour and in the evening listen to the pope speak from a stage that was erected at the ancient colosseum, this was a new event even for the Italians. The third day we were there, we gave our first YES! presentation along with a professor from the University of Rome and a technologist who invented a new water purification system that is being tested in several third world countries. The fourth day of the trip, the group traveled to a small village south of Rome and socialized, played games and had dinner with the residents. Later that evening, the students were invited to discuss possible improvements for the community.  We shared ideas on composting, creating a sustainable food source by designing a system to raise tilapia and creating a recycling system to handle solid waste. The fifth day we traveled to Florence on a bullet train which reached 180 mph. We toured Florence, the city gardens and museums. On the sixth day we traveled to Naples and toured an Italian recycling center. The engineer in charge of the facility had spoken at the global warming conference to representatives from all nations. He was a very knowledgeable individual who had created the site as a prototype.During the remainder of the trip our students presented on two other separate occasions and toured several smaller villages, Assisi, Rome and Frescati.

During the trip our team made several great contacts with the Italians, ate tons of awesome Italian food and had an experience of a lifetime. Our goal is to make a return trip with the same group five years from now.


Buzzing With Excitement!

Submitted By Michelle Isaacson, Southern YES! Coordinator

On Tuesday, June 6, 2017 the Sleepy Eye teams gathered along with city officials, media, and partners to celebrate the teams and receive the Spring Judging Awards.

After light refreshments the teams got right to work. The local golf course has designated 2 areas that will become pollinator habitat and the teams worked hard digging holes and planting native plants in those areas. There is also room for expansion so the teams have the potential to plant in over an acre of land! Over the summer, members will take care of the area by watering and physically taking out weeds. The goal is to make these areas chemical free so signs will be posted to inform workers.

Phase two of the pollinator project also happened this day as volunteers installed native bee homes in the golf course trees. The newly planted flowers and the new homes will make for great native pollinator habitat, helping to increase their dwindling populations. Students learned a little about why it is important to provide suitable homes for pollinators and how many native bees are solitary and nest differently than the very social honeybees.


Phase three includes education. Signs will be placed around the plantings to educate golfers on the project and why it is so important. Students will also do outreach to further educate their community on pollinator habitat.


            We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s                     familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is                 deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed,             but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of  the road—the one less traveled by—               offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation             of the earth.
           Rachel Carson

YES! Southern Regional Winners

All of the teams in the Southern region should be very proud of all they accomplished this past year. Congratulations to all of them for a very successful year. Six of nine teams participated in the Southern Spring Judging hosted by Gustavus Adolphus College this spring. Five local judges spent the day hearing from the teams to learn more about the sustainable and energy action projects they completed during the school year. Judges included Jim Dontje director of the Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation at Gustavus Adolphus College, Connie Meeker with MVEC Operation Round Up, Mick McGuire board member at the Ney Nature Center, Lou Schwartzkopf Professor Emeritus at Minnesota State University Mankato, and Judy Elling Przybilla with the Southwest Regional Development Commission and CERT’s. Award recipients are as follows:

All-Star Award Recipient                Westbrook-Walnut Grove YES! Team

  • Outstanding work in all the following categories: project impact, goal setting, teamwork, community leadership, and community education.




Project Impact Award Recipient – Sleepy Eye YES! Teams

  • Outstanding projects that will continue to impact the community include: B3 Benchmarking, eliminating Styrofoam from the cafeteria, and recycling holiday lights, which provides jobs for local residents.

 Wow Factor Award Recipient – Westbrook-Walnut Grove YES! Team

  • Judges were captivated by the breadth and depth of the projects WWG produced. Projects included expanding pop tab recycling from their school into the community, expansion of the school’s recycling depot to fill a local need, and diesel engine work with an impressive distance to reach out and locate the motor.

 Goal Setting & Teamwork Award Recipient – Westbrook-Walnut Grove YES! Team

  • For showing exemplary goal setting skills and including all members of the team to accomplish goals.

Community Leadership & Education Award Recipient –Sleepy Eye YES! Teams

For their impressive use of community interaction while participating in local events including Party in the Park and Corn Days, as well as showing skills including innovation, problem-solving, communication, teamwork, and project management when planting trees in their community.


Judges were thoroughly impressed with all teams saying “students are addressing real issues and getting people thinking differently about everyday issues, which makes a difference.” Funding was provided by Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative Operation Round Up and the United Fund of Le Sueur.

Once again, congratulations to this year’s winners and to everyone participating as the teams have done an amazing job making a positive difference in the world.


Central Region Award Winners

Submitted By:  Erin Nordquist, Central MN YES! Coordinator

On April 15, 2017, the Central region Youth Energy Summit (YES!) teams presented their final project reports, complete with PowerPoint presentations, to a panel of four judges. The panel of judges included: Adam Hjelm – Education Coordinator, Sauk River Watershed District; Ashley Walker – Environmental Education Fellow, St. John’s Outdoor University; Tina Miller – Project Coordinator, Blattner Energy; and Tom McDougall – Former President (Retired), Weidt Group.

The Melrose Middle School YES! team got the Goal Setting, Teamwork, and Community Leadership Award this year. The team, along with their coach, Science teacher Kim Olson, completed several projects over the course of the year and put in a lot of work. They built bat houses and installed them in several locations in their area, they expanded the recycling program at their school, and they also worked on the pollinator garden that they installed last year. The team also participated in multiple field trips and learning opportunities that helped them reach their project goals. It was clear to the judges that the team worked together to complete multiple projects so that all members of the group had a project that they were interested in. In order to complete these projects, the team worked with several community organizations.

The Sartell Middle School YES! team got the Project Impact and WOW! Factor Award. The Sartell YES! team is led by Science teacher Gina Anderson. Throughout the school year, the YES! students developed curricula to educate their peers about water quality issues. The developed lesson plans were presented by the YES! students or by various teachers during several advisory periods near the end of the year. The judges got to see the visuals that went with each lesson and the students explained some of their talking points. Each lesson was an in-depth look at a different issue relating to water quality and the judges thought that they were done extremely well. They also felt that this project was the most impactful because the YES! students were learning valuable skills for their future and the rest of the student body was being taught such important information about water resources.

The North Jr High YES! team received the All Star Award. The team and their coach, Math teacher Maggie Lukens, put in an incredible amount of work to install a 1.3 acre pollinator prairie on the North Jr High school grounds. Included within the pollinator prairie, is an outdoor classroom with benches made by the school’s shop class. The judges were impressed that such a large project was put into place by middle school aged students and that there was significant forethought about how the outdoor classroom could benefit future students. The team received funding through Pheasants Forever, The McKnight Foundation, The Lions Club, and several other community organizations to accomplish this huge project.

Congratulations to all of the Central region award winners! There were so many wonderful projects this year, all the teams and their coaches deserve a big round of applause!

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