And the winners are…

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Three groups – four fourth-grade classes in Apple Valley, youth from a Lutheran Church’s confirmation program in Blaine and a Boys and Girls Club in Sauk Rapids – have won $500 apiece for anti-pollution projects aimed at keeping leaves and other organic debris out of lakes and rivers.

The contest was sponsored by Freshwater and InCommons to encourage small neighborhood-based efforts to reduce the phosphorus pollution that leads to excessive algae growth in surface waters throughout Minnesota. The Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation also was a sponsor and contributed the prize for the Sauk Rapids winner.

The winners were:

  • The fourth-grade classes at Cedar Park Elementary School in Apple Valley, where students operated a drop-off site at the school that allowed Apple Valley residents to recycle leaves.
  • About 130 youth and a nearly equal number of parents from Christ Lutheran Church in Blaine, who raked leaves from yards, parks and streets in neighborhoods around the church on Oct. 12.
  • Members of the Raymond Park Boys and Girls Club in Sauk Rapids, who raked leaves in and around the park for two purposes: to keep the leaves out of the nearby Mississippi River, and to mulch vegetable and flower gardens.

    Cedar Park Elementary is a kindergarten-through-fifth-grade magnet school that emphasizes science, technology, engineering and math. The fourth-graders operated the leaf drop-off as part of their study of water conservation and water quality. View a video the students made about the project.

Monica Foss, an engineering teacher who entered the classes in the competition, said part of the $500 prize will be used to buy water-testing equipment to study the release of phosphorus as leaves disintegrate in water. Some of the money also will be used to produce a more-extensive video about pollution and the leaf-collection effort.

Before they conducted the leaf collection, students learned that leaves left in the street often are washed into storm sewers and then into nearby streams. “There was a conception that you can just rake the leaves into the street and the city will come clean them up, and that just doesn’t happen,” Foss said.

The fourth-graders ran their drop-off site on Oct. 24 and 25, and they have another collection scheduled on Nov. 14.

In Blaine, the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in the Christ Lutheran confirmation program raked leaves – in the rain — for a number of elderly residents and then invited the residents back to the church for a celebratory meal of hotdogs, brats and beans.

Kjell Ferris, Christ Lutheran’s associate pastor, said the group collected about 140 bags of leaves.

“To see the faces of the kids and adults when they came back from raking – they were smiling, they were laughing,” Ferris said. “They had had a great time helping out some folks in the neighborhood.”

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