Six YES! Teams (Youth Eco Solutions) of youth in grades 8 to 12 presented the outcomes from their year-long projects to a panel of five judges who are experts in a variety of environmental fields. This event is called Spring Judging and is the culmination of work being accomplished to create solutions to today’s ecological challenges.

The six teams that presented were New Prague, Sleepy Eye, Forest Lake, Springfield, Westbrook-Walnut Grove, and Minnetonka. After the presentations, the judges scored the teams on:

1) goal setting and teamwork, 2) community leadership and education, 3) ecological impact and literacy, and separately on water stewardship.

Judges for the southern and metro regions included Nancy Fasching, Southwest Initiative Foundation; Annette Fiedler, Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs); Mike Schultz, Le Sueur Soil and Water Conservation District; Jim Dontje, Gustavus Adolphus College; and Brigid Tuck, University of Minnesota Extension.

Some of the projects that the teams did are aquaponics, growing produce in a greenhouse, testing bodies of water for Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), installing water bottle filling stations, designing rain gardens and pollinator gardens, building bee houses, B3 Benchmarking, and many more.


First Place Award Recipient — Sleepy Eye YES! Team. Judges comments: Outstanding teamwork within the team and the community. Great focus on making a lasting impact.

Second Place Award Recipient — Westbrook-Walnut Grove YES! Team. Judges comments: Appreciable commitment to their projects and making a difference in their community

Third Place Award Recipient — Minnetonka YES! Team. Judges comments: Exceptional goal setting and leadership shown while planning projects.

Water Stewardship Award Recipient – New Prague YES! Team. Judges comments: Remarkable work on different projects around water quality and learning about why water is important.

During the judging, students were asked about what they value most about being in the YES! program:

“YES! gives us the opportunities to make a difference.” Forest Lake YES! student

“It gives us the opportunity to meet new people and work on one cause.” Springfield YES! student

“Being a part of a YES! team helps us grow our morals and respect.” Sleepy Eye YES! student

“I can use what I have learned in YES! in my future.” Westbrook-Walnut Grove YES! student

ABOUT YES! (Youth Eco Solutions)

YES! empowers youth to create solutions to today’s ecological challenges through community based hands-on action projects. YES! is a program of Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in partnership with Laurentian Environmental Center and Ney Nature Center. Major funding for the 2018-2019 season is provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the McKnight Foundation.