Olivia West Leads Environmental Efforts Through Girl Scouts, NJHS

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During her daily trips to Lake Claire Beach in Cape St. Claire, Olivia West noticed many unsuccessful efforts to remove invasive species and combat erosion.

When it came time to brainstorm ideas to earn her Silver Award through Girl Scouts, Olivia knew what she wanted to do.

“I know in the past, groups have tried to plant stuff, but it wasn’t all that effective because they didn’t tell anyone about it and they didn’t have a lot of signs,” Olivia said. “I realized how badly we were affecting the environment and that I could do something to help the environment.”

Olivia planned a day — Saturday, May 11 — for her Girl Scout troop to spend a few hours planting 250 bay grasses at Lake Claire Beach. Olivia even partnered with another Girl Scout troop on the project with the help of her science teacher, Christine McCallister.

“I thought it was a good way to get the troops together, and also, we’re fighting for the same cause,” said McCallister, whose troop is working on an oyster restoration project to earn their Silver Award.

However, the project wasn’t as simple as putting plants into the sand. Olivia went to a Cape Conservation Corps board meeting to get permission for the project, ask how it would be the most impactful and get funding for supplies. Olivia received donations from the Cape Conservation Corps and Thrivent Action Team.

On the day of the project, Olivia set up a map of methodically spaced popsicle sticks to show her fellow troops where to place each plant. The project also required Olivia to learn about plants native to the area and why they were needed to replace invasive plants.

“I learned that if you put two plants too close together, one will probably kill the other because their roots will be fighting for water,” Olivia said. “I also learned that we couldn’t put them too close to where part of the erosion actually is because the plants will just fall into it, so we had to put them in a very specific area.”

Finally, Olivia put caution tape around the area and hung signs to alert beachgoers from trampling her work.

This wasn’t Olivia’s only environmental effort. As part of the National Junior Honor Society at Magothy River Middle School, Olivia, a seventh-grader, wanted to help beautify the gardens. Through donations, she received 69 bags of mulch to use around the school grounds.

“Magothy is a really, really nice place, and we have lots of teachers that really help. I think it’s a way of giving back because the teachers do so much, and all the people in the school, we don’t see,” Olivia said. “I thought I could do something there, and it would make people happy.”

Now, the gardens are weed-free.

“She doesn’t give up and she’s a hard worker and she’s a great leader,” McCallister said. “I’m so proud of all that she’s done this school year.”

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