YES! Announces McKnight Foundation Project Funding Winners

Written and Submitted by Ali Dahmes, West Central YES! Coordinator


On November 6, 2017, the Youth Energy Summit (YES!) Program announced the 2017 winners of the McKnight Foundation Project Funding.  Funding was awarded to teams whose projects engage and empower youth to make an impact in their school and/or community on climate change through hands-on projects.  Through a competitive process, nine teams received awards.

The project funding is a result of a larger grant received by the YES! Program from The McKnight Foundation in the fall of 2015 to bring climate literacy to YES! students across greater Minnesota.  “The primary goal of this grant from McKnight’s perspective is to get the newest generation engaged and empowered to do something about climate change in their own communities,” said Aimee Witteman, Midwest Climate & Energy Program Director for The McKnight Foundation.  All teams that received funding have a clear vision on how their project relates to climate change.

New London-Spicer and Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City YES! Teams will be installing energy efficient hand dryers in their bathrooms to reduce the energy use it takes to make, deliver, and dispose of paper towels.

Moorhead Youth Educational Services and ROCORI YES! Teams plan on putting at least one solar panel up at their school to educate other students about the importance of renewable energy as well as decreasing the schools energy usage.

Discovery Woods YES! Team will be updating fluorescent tube lighting in their library space to energy efficient LED lighting. They will also be calculating the cost and energy savings by comparing past electric usage.

Glencoe-Silver Lake YES! Team will be designing and building a solar recharging station for students to charge their portable devices during the day. It will also be a demonstration that solar electricity generation can be utilized to lower our use of carbon based fuels for power generation.

New Prague YES! Team will be designing and building indoor and outdoor planter boxes to support the production of fresh produce from seed to harvest. The food will be shared with the High School lunchroom as well as classes. They are growing their own food to decrease their carbon footprint by reducing emissions from transporting food from non-local sources.

Sleepy Eye YES! Teams will be updating their outdoor security lights to LED energy efficient lighting to reduce the energy usage from those lights. They will also be starting a pollinator/butterfly garden at a local apartment complex that will educate residents and community members about the importance of increasing habitat for pollinators.

Last but not least, Wrenshall YES! Team is building a solar boat where students will explore solar panels and how they produce energy. It also demonstrates that there are alternatives to using fossil fuels for transportation!

More to come: teams will be blogging information and pictures on the projects in the near future!

Westbrook-Walnut Grove (WWG) 2017 Black Out Day


Written and submitted by a guest.

On October 25, 2017 our school, Westbrook-Walnut Grove (WWG0, had Black Out Day. Black Out Day was meant to see how much our school could save if we would shut of all the lights and most electronics. The purpose of Blackout Day was to reduce the amount of electricity for a single day. We also did this to raise awareness of how much energy we use at school. Finally any money saved was matched (by Earth YES class) and sent to a former student, now a teacher in Houston, Texas. She works in a school devastated by hurricane Harvey, and the YES class wanted to help the Student Council raise funds to help out.

We got this idea from class, because we are learning about power and electricity. This took lots of preparing. In order for this blackout day to be successful, we had to divide everyone in the Earth YES class into groups. Then we assigned them responsibilities such as testing the wattage of normal appliances like pencil sharpeners, computers, printers, and projectors. We also learned we needed to communicate clearly to everyone but especially our classmates. We needed to do everything from pick a date to plan what would happen throughout the entire day. Then we had to gather all of the supplies we needed and make all of the stop signs to cover the light switches. After that we had to tell the whole school what’s going on. Then we told the community. The Earth YES students made surveys for all the teachers to see if they were going to shut their classroom lights off, or even shut their projectors and the rest of their electrical devices. It took a lot of work but it all paid off when I saw how much we had helped the school.
The day itself was amazing. The school wore all black and donated about $70 from turning off lights and more.The students got to participate in a scavenger hunt and solved energy riddles. If they got the scavenger hunt or the riddles right they went to Mr. Merrick to get a treat. The students were into all of it. They especially enjoyed the treats. If the student wore all black they also got a treat.

I think we should keep having blackout day because it will save our school a little on electricity and we will have fun doing it. I also thought it was really cool seeing my classmates and myself on the news taking action, saving money, making a change, and simply having fun.
Overall, it was a very fun thing to do and it was very educational.


Fall Summit – NE Region

Submitted by Jim DeVries, NE MN  YES! Coordinator


October 16, 2017 was the day of the Northeast Region Fall Summit.  We had 4 teams represented with over 40 participants.  The day started with some outdoor team building activities.  Teams were blended to enable connections to other schools in hopes that cross communications would offer insights into how other teams function.

After a brief stint outdoors the teams gathered in the main lodge at the Laurentian Environmental Center for a learning session on Climate Change and how to organize for a Climate Convening.  Josthna Harris and Jenna Tots were the presenters.  Students were thoroughly engaged in the climate change discussion.  Many questions were answered and a completely fresh understanding of how our climate is actually changing made this a wonderful session.  Two of the teams are excited to host a climate convening in their communities as a result.

Lunch was next on our agenda and everyone enjoyed a meal of homemade spaghetti and bread sticks while the coaches met for a brief run down of the details that keep things on track throughout the year of YES!.

Alexis Troschinetz from the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTS) was our next speaker.  She presented three ideas on energy savings and introduced teams to how these simple energy tips could translate into a fundraising idea for the team.  The three energy tips included low flow shower heads, smart power strips and LED light bulbs.  The teams then broke out to learn more about each item in hands-on presentations.  The presentations were designed to demonstrate how each item saves energy.  There were additional educational components and challenges for the teams to engage in rounding this out topic to a higher level. Teams then met to wrap up the day and everyone left energized ready to tackle the mission of YES! for another year.

“The Climate is Changing, Are YOU?”

Written and Submitted by Ali Dahmes, West Central YES! Coordinator

Throughout the day during the Fall Summit at St. John’s University, Climate Generation staff Jothsna Harris and Green Corps member Kira Liu presented to students about how to put on a community event using their climate convening model. The three parts to an event like this includes science, stories, and solutions. Jothsna and Kira taught students about the science of climate change (what climate change is and why it is happening).  After a short video of a climate story, Jothsna got students thinking about what is important to them in their community. Answer like “family”, “nature”, “trees”, “parks”, “water”, “ice”, and “snow” were shouted out. This was an exercise for students to start thinking about what their climate story could be about, just another piece of putting on a climate convening. Finally, to get students thinking about the problem and solutions in their communities, the session was wrapped up with a “gallery walk”. Questions were posted on the wall around the room where students gathered in groups to answer. Questions included “what is the problem” and “why is it urgent”, “who makes up the community” and “what are their shared values”, and “what are solutions” and “who are potential partners who might support the effort”.  Most of their answers are shown in these word clouds. When confronted with climate change, a lot of people believe we are condemned and there is nothing we can do about it. The students throughout this session however showed signs of hope and came up with amazing ideas of how to get their community involved in the efforts to slow, stop, or reverse climate change!

“Water, Water Everywhere. We Really Need to Care.”

Written and Submitted By:  Ali Dahmes, West Central YES! Coordinator


Water really is everywhere, especially in the land of 11,842 lakes. Students from Forest Lake, Sleep Eye Public, Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s, Mankato West, Melrose, Royalton, and Yellow Medicine East Schools participated in a 55 minute session about water. More specifically, they heard from two different water specialist. Jon Morales from Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District introduced students to what a best management project (BMP) is and who could help them carry out such projects in their communities. He then explained and showed students BMPs that the watershed district has helped with in the past few years including a renovation of a boat launch/lake access and the implementation of tree trenches (one of which a YES! team did at their school). Then students explored the St. Johns campus and the BMPs that they have finished at the school, including a “rain garden” that helps with runoff by their beach.

The other half of the session was led by Charlene Brooks with Kandiyohi County Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force. Charlene spoke about shoreline health, invasive species that can overtake a shoreline, and projects that students could complete that would help with this effort (like a shoreline buffer). She played multiple games with students, one that showed what wave action and ice heaves do to shorelines, and some that taught how invasive species take over a landscape and what they actually do to disrupt the natural environment. Luckily it was a beautiful day to spend some time down by the beautiful uninhabited lake learning about what to do to help take care of the water this planet has on it. After all, we can’t make more!

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