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Kids can inspire big changes!

How a Grade 6 science project put a spotlight on one of Canada’s most polluted rivers and won Stella Bowles an A+ and the Evergreen TD Future City Builders Award
Top image caption: Stella Bowles, Evergreen TD Future City Builders Award Winner.

Published on September 12, 2016

By Jen Reynolds

In many schoolyards, the value of science fair projects have become a hot debate among moms and dads. While some parents feel that the assignments are beyond the ability and comprehension of the kids, others argue that their value is proven and can inspire results that live beyond the classroom. The story of Stella Bowles’ 2015 science project proves the latter true.

On November 11, 2015 Stella Bowles, 11 years old at the time, posted this on her Facebook page.

Hi, my name is Stella. I live along the LaHave River and I am very sad that I can't swim in my river. For years now, people have been flushing their toilets directly into the water through straight pipes. Straight pipes are illegal, but no one is telling people to stop. Pooping in our river is so gross and wrong. I decided to start a project on testing the river after my mom explained to me how high the fecal levels really are. Most people thought the river was getting healthier, but that just isn't true. Our river is very sick.

I am going to post my testing results here for the public to see. Maybe if more people know how much poop is in our river someone will fix it.

When over 1,200 people liked her post and more than 800 shared it, Stella knew the local river she wanted to swim in would get the attention it deserved. “I am so excited!” she wrote in a follow-up post. “I can spread my message about saving the beautiful LaHave River even further and maybe more will be done to eliminate straight pipes and help heal more of our waterways.

The young community leader said the same thing to the Evergreen team when she found out that she was the recipient of the TD Future City Builders Award, one of three Evergreen City Builders Awards celebrating Canadians that go above and beyond to build great cities.

The TD Future City Builders Award celebrates dynamic youth who have taken action to instigate change in their community. Stella Bowles has not only taken action to test her river, she has been able to raise awareness on an issue that plagued the LaHave River in Nova Scotia for generations. Her Facebook page has almost at 3,000 followers with posts reaching over 50,000 people. Her cause has gone viral and has helped to fuel the clean-up and an 18-million-dollar investment by all three levels of government.

Now at 12 years old, the Grade 7 student has met the Prime Minister, been interviewed on CBC News, Global News and most recently on CTV News Atlantic and also featured in her local newspaper, South Shore Breaker.

Evergreen asked Stella more about the current state of her science project, and what she does when she’s not busy trying to save the world.

Evergreen: What project/initiative/idea are you most excited about right now?

Stella: I am excited for the federal government to sign on to the project to clean up the LaHave River. The municipal and provincial governments have already signed on and I am told the federal government signing will happen very soon. The program will begin March 31, 2017.

I just sent a letter to my premier and environment minister asking why houses can still be sold with an illegal straight pipe and I look forward to their response. You can find the letter on my Facebook page LaHave River: Stella's Science Project

Evergreen: What has surprised you most in the work that you are doing right now?

Stella: I was first surprised when I found out what a straight pipe was. I can’t believe anyone thought it was a good idea. They are so gross. I couldn’t believe how contaminated our river was with fecal bacteria. The water testing results I did shocked me and made me very sad. I am surprised at the response and support I got from people. I am surprised and happy the politicians finally listened (to a kid) and are going to clean up my river. I am surprised at all the attention I am getting for my cause. It really was just supposed to be a Grade 6 science fair project, but it has become a lot more.

Evergreen: Is there a person who has had a big impact on you as a leader or mentor? How have they had impact on the work you are doing now?

Stella: There are a few people: First, my mom, dad and brother William. We always talk about the project at the dinner table and make decisions together. Although it is mainly my project, it really is a family thing.

Also, my mentor and friend, Dr. David Maxwell is teaching me a lot. He is a retired medical doctor who helps me with all of the science stuff and questions me really hard and makes me think.

Evergreen: What is the biggest challenge that you are facing right now?

Stella: I am thinking beyond the LaHave River now. I have a really great relationship with my MLA, MP and Premier, as well as a big following of people. My challenge is to keep a bit of pressure on them to change things, but in a positive way. Politics is interesting and actually, my experience has been very positive with them. I hope I can continue to positively impact my home for my future and my children's future.

Evergreen: What is your dream job for the future?

Stella: I’m not really sure yet. I like science, environmental causes and politics. I’m only 12, so I have a lot of time to figure it out.

Evergreen: Anything new we should know about?

Stella: I like to make money. Since I was 6 years old, I have had a small jam-making business. I pick strawberries and make my own jam and sell it. I actually sold a whole case to province house this summer when they had the signing of the memorandum between the municipal and provincial government! Last year I started making and selling mittens out of recycled sweaters. I recently just bought myself a MacBook Air.

I am in Grade 7 this year and I really am just a normal kid. I am on the swim team (provincial champions) and I also play hockey in the winter. I play girls Peewee A this year. I am also a Girl Guide.

Now that I have a lot of attention on the LaHave River and the terrible issue of ILLEGAL straight pipes, I really want to do more. I know it is a very big problem, but every straight pipe eliminated is healing our waters a little more.

Evergreen congratulates Stella Bowles on her incredible work and looks forward to celebrating her achievements on September 17th at the Wild in the City gala.