Anna DeVolld and her sister Sara DeVolld pose with some of Anna’s pollinator packs in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy Shona DeVolld)

Anna DeVolld and her sister Sara DeVolld pose with some of Anna’s pollinator packs in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy Shona DeVolld)

Bee-ing her best

Peninsula high schooler nationally honored for pollinator project

A Kenai Peninsula student was recently recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for her efforts promoting the healthy growth of pollinators.

On April 22, the EPA announced the recipients of the President’s Environmental Youth Award, which is given to “outstanding” environmental projects by kindergartners to 12th graders around the country “to promote awareness of our natural resources and encourage positive community involvement,” according to an April 23 press release from the EPA.

The winner of the President’s Environmental Youth Award for Region 10 is Anna DeVolld, a ninth grader in the Connections Homeschool Program on the Kenai Peninsula, for her Promote Our Pollinators (P.O.P.) program. P.O.P. is an environmental program focused on educating the community about the importance of pollinators and why their populations are declining, while also providing resources that promote their growth.

“We’re proud to honor this young leader who is educating her community about the importance of pollinators in our environment,” EPA Regional Administrator Chris Hladick said in the press release. “Students like Anna are making a real difference and inspiring the next generation to be good stewards of their natural resources.”

DeVolld told the Clarion on Tuesday that she was happy to receive the award and credited those who have helped her along the way for the success of her project.

“This award belongs to our whole community,” DeVolld said in an email. “P.O.P. started as a Caring for the Kenai idea, and from there, our community has really embraced the program. I’ve received support from the City of Soldotna, the City of Kenai, and from countless local businesses and individuals. In addition, I’ve been able to work closely with and learn from Mr. (Merrill) Sikorski, Mr. (Tim) Dillon and Ms. (Caitlin) Coreson at the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, and Ms. (Pegge) Erkeneff at KPBSD. All of my materials and supplies have been funded using grants and donations. This community cares deeply about students and our environment, and without their assistance, this program wouldn’t be so impactful.”

DeVolld first unveiled her project at the 2019 Caring for the Kenai competition, where she took home third place among a dozen youth environmentalists who presented various projects related to conservation. She was also recognized last June as a State Merit winner for the annual 3M Young Scientist Challenge and has received a number of different scholarships and grants for her project.

Throughout the life of this project, DeVolld has used her P.O.P. program to educate the Kenai Peninsula community about bees and other pollinators. DeVolld has given presentations in schools and community centers about the importance of pollinators in ecosystems and developed an online curriculum that can be used by elementary classrooms. She has also provided “pollinator packs” to local businesses and organizations, which contain the seedlings of plants native to Alaska that attract pollinators. DeVolld has also created a website, Twitter and Facebook page for her project that provide resources and activity books about pollinators.

“Anna’s spirit of conservation has inspired young and old members of our community to look at bees in a new way. Her initial ideas have blossomed through her revisions and improvements into a project that can affect our community for years to come,” DeVolld’s teacher Wendi Dutcher said in the EPA’s press release. “The POP program is a reminder of the part we all play in the future of our environment. Anna has a heart to give back to the community. It has been a delight to see Anna grow through this process, and I look forward to seeing where this journey will lead her.”

DeVolld had 21 P.O.P. presentations scheduled for April and May at schools, libraries and senior centers across the peninsula, but the outbreak of COVID-19 in Alaska meant that those presentations were canceled. DeVolld had to shift her focus to other aspects of the project.

“Obviously, we had to get creative and pivot to plan ‘Bee.’ The shift in plans propelled me to focus on the online class and really develop P.O.P.’s online and social media presence,” DeVolld said. “P.O.P.’s social media accounts’ reach has now topped 16,000 (followers) worldwide.”

DeVolld said that recently she was able to develop an online P.O.P. class that includes lessons, videos, quizzes and activities and can be used by teachers in the district. Thanks to grants from the City of Soldotna and the Central Peninsula Garden Club, DeVolld also designed P.O.P. curriculum kits that contain lesson plans, garden supplies, activity books and other promotional material and distributed 15 of those kits to schools throughout the district.

Currently, DeVolld is growing 150 pollinator packs that she will be distributing to local businesses next week.

“These portable pollinator gardens contain six different pollinator-friendly seedlings,” DeVolld said. “It is my hope that they will be placed all over our urban areas, providing the easy-to-locate food source that pollinators need at frequent intervals.”

DeVolld said she is also collaborating with the Alaska Department of Transportation on the development of their Best Practices for Pollinators Plan.

When asked what’s next for P.O.P., DeVolld said that she recently applied for her business license and is looking forward to her entrepreneurial debut next year.

Anna DeVolld poses with an informational poster for her Promote Our Pollinators project in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy Shona DeVolld)

Anna DeVolld poses with an informational poster for her Promote Our Pollinators project in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy Shona DeVolld)

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