EPA honors St. Mary Magdalen student for protecting bees

  • Written by Northwest Catholic
  • Published in Local
Photo: Andrea Sonda via Unsplash Photo: Andrea Sonda via Unsplash

EVERETT – A fifth-grader at St. Mary Magdalen School was honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for her work to promote and protect bees and other pollinators in her community.

Elizabeth Sajan’s project, “Bee Happy We Happy,” was among 15 student projects from 13 states to receive the 2016 President’s Environmental Youth Award for their environmental education and stewardship achievements. She received the award at a ceremony at her school June 14.

“We are pleased to honor these impressive young leaders, who demonstrate the impact that a few individuals can make to protect our environment,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a press release. “These students are empowering their peers, educating their communities and demonstrating the STEM skills needed for this country to thrive in the global economy.”

As part of the fifth-grade science curriculum at St. Mary Magdalen, Elizabeth learned about pollination and the importance of bees. The topic struck her curiosity, and after encouragement from her teacher, Elizabeth embarked on an independent project to educate herself and her community about bee health and beekeeping.

“I am so proud of Elizabeth for taking a topic we were learning about in class and transforming this topic into a passion,” said Julie Tyndall, fifth-grade teacher at St. Mary Magdalen School. “She educated the community about the importance of bees as pollinators, how it will affect our lives if bees disappear, and what we can do to help bees thrive in our communities.” 

Elizabeth’s research included reviewing articles and Washington State University Extension videos on pollination and pollinator protection, and visiting a local nursery to understand cultivation. She also reached out directly to scientists, including the community horticulture wing of the department of pest management of Washington State University Extension, a chemical engineer in Oregon and a biotechnologist in pharmaceuticals. 

Following her research, Elizabeth created an awareness flier and distributed it throughout her school and community. She suggested actions people could take to promote bee health, such as planting bee-friendly flowers, becoming beekeepers, reducing pesticide use and including water sources in gardens.

She presented to her classmates and principal, and provided fliers to homeroom teachers to discuss with their science classes. At her local grocery store, she engaged customers at the door by giving out her flier and discussing her concerns about bee health and how individuals could make a difference in protecting pollinators.

Elizabeth plans to continue to get the message out to her family, friends and community to develop more “bee helpers” in her community.