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Saving the Environment One Bar of Soap at a Time

Northern Lights Public Schools is pleased to recognize Esther Yang, a Grade 11 student at Bonnyville Centralized High School, as our Student Shining Star for June.

In May 2024, Esther traveled to Wetaskiwin to compete in the provincial Caring For Our Watersheds competition, hosted by the Battle River Watershed Alliance. This annual competition aims to “engage students in preserving and improving their local watersheds through student-led solutions.”

“It’s a program to help students create and implement their own ideas about how to improve and preserve our watersheds,” Esther explained, “and to raise awareness about the environmental impact that watershed degradation can have.”

A watershed is an area of land that funnels running water, groundwater, and other sources of moisture into a larger body of water. This region is home to several watersheds, the largest being the Beaver River Watershed, which connects to the Churchill River in Saskatchewan and eventually empties into Hudson Bay. Over time, watershed degradation can cause landslides, flooding, and changes in soil moisture.

“So it’s really important,” Esther continued, “and people need to be more aware of the effects of not caring for a watershed.”

Esther’s proposal involves recycling used cooking oil to create soap, rather than disposing of it.

“I got the idea from reading a chemistry book when I was little. When I was thinking about this competition, that book came back to me, and I remembered the negative impact that improper disposal of cooking oil can have on the environment. So I wrote my proposal about how to reuse cooking oil as soap and about educating people on recycling oil responsibly,” she explained.

Jennifer Vermillion, who was recognized as an NLPS Shining Star earlier this year for her efforts regarding hands-on learning and environmental conservation, assisted Esther with her proposal and attended the competition with her.

“Esther is a remarkable student and a welcome addition to our school community,” Vermillion said. “She presented her proposal extremely well and took full ownership of it.”

“I was maybe a little bit bossy,” Esther laughed.

Vermillion was impressed with Esther’s ability to take charge and make the project and proposal her own.

“It makes such a difference to give students these hands-on, real-world experiences and applications,” Vermillion added. “Having the opportunity to see the effects of what we discuss in class in real scenarios, and allowing them to express their creativity and come up with their own ideas and projects, provides a much greater sense of satisfaction and understanding.”

Proposals submitted to the Caring For Our Watersheds competition were judged based on innovation, impact potential, scope, and feasibility. Esther placed fourth out of nearly 600 initially submitted proposals.

Esther Yang is the Northern Lights Public Schools Student Shining Star for June. Each month during the 2023-2024 school year, NLPS is featuring different Shining Stars to celebrate their contributions and accomplishments.