By Ris Twigg
Isabella Harris has been in Girl Scouts almost as long as she can remember.
“To be honest, I got involved in Girl Scouts kind of because of peer pressure. My sister was a Girl Scout and my brother was a Boy Scout,” Harris said. “My mom and them would always come home with these awesome crafts, and I was like, ‘Wow, I want to do that!’ So when I was in kindergarten I joined, and I’ve been in ever since.”
After nine-and-a-half years in the troop, Harris — a 13-year-old Cadette Scout with well over 100 badges — is working hard to earn the highest award that a Girl Scout of her rank can earn: the Silver Award.
To get the award, Harris must complete a Silver Project that lasts in the community for years to come. And echoing many in her generation, Harris’ project focuses on preserving the environment.
“We never really stop talking about the environment (in Girl Scouts) because it never really stops dying,” she said.
Harris, a scout in the Tri-Trails Service Unit in Hamilton Township and Canal Winchester-Groveport School districts, pitched three environmental projects at two parks in Obetz — McFadyn and Braehead Nature Preserve — during the March 9 Obetz Village Council meeting.
“The problem at McFadyn is the weathering creek,” Harris said. “There are already kids playing in the creek. There is major erosion. We want to work to make that safer.”
One way Harris’ project aims to make the creek safer and prevent further erosion is to create a sort of guard at the bottom of the creek using large, round stones. This helps keep the soil beneath the creek from washing away as kids play and provides additional habitat for macroinvertebrates, or small insects such as dragonfly nymphs or stoneflies, that help keep the creek healthy.
Part of her plan for McFadyn Park includes building a small bridge to reduce foot traffic in the creek, as well as lining the small waterway with flowers to protect the edges of the stream bank.
Harris also hopes to create — with the help of Obetz Council — a little more “natural” fun for kids: a playground with logs, rocks, tree trunks, tires and a slide built on a hill.
Braehead Nature Preserve
For Harris, the problems at Braehead are more than environmental — they’re personal.
“For some people, mosquitoes mean death,” Harris said. “I am deathly allergic to mosquito and insect bites. When I went to Braehead for the first time, it was a hot day, it was sunny and all the bugs were out. I didn’t make it more than half a mile.”
To increase Braehead’s usability by lowering the bug population, Harris proposed the installation of five to 10 bat boxes that would house up to 150 bats each and displayed a sample box during the March 9 council meeting.
“Since (Braehead) is a preserve we have to keep things as natural as we possibly can,” she explained. “The bat population is low, the bug population is high. You look at that and you see a kind of natural turnout for things.”
Harris said the boxes must be placed high enough to where neither children nor predators, such as foxes, can reach them, around 15 feet high. Each box is made with a few slabs of plywood, and bat box kits cost between $30 to $40 a piece.
Stacey Boumis, community services director for Obetz, has been working with Harris on the project for the past several months. The two are working on securing contributions from the local community to fund and build the boxes.
And even though she’s allergic to insect bites, Harris made sure not to leave out one vital component of nature’s ecosystem: pollinators.
“One kind of problem with everything, though, is the bees. So the bee population has actually gone down by 60 percent since 1947,” she said. “That’s a lot.”
Not only do bees pollinate plants such as flowers, they also pollinate our fruits and vegetables and help us grow our food. Without them, harvesting a good crop yield becomes difficult.
In order to bring back the bee population in her community, Harris said it’s critical to plant specific flora called “pollination flowers.” These provide additional food for the bees while improving the aesthetics of the Braehead Nature Preserve.
“I think bees are important. I think all the wildlife are important. Anything we can do like that is very helpful to the environment,” said Obetz Councilwoman Bonnie Wiley.
Other council members echoed similar sentiments in support of Harris’ projects.
It’s all about education
One reason why Harris chose these projects to fulfill her Silver Award is because there’s not a lot of education in Hamilton Local Schools on how students can take care of the planet, she said.
“A few weeks ago they took out the recycling at the school,” she said. “I don’t know why anyone would stop recycling. It’s just bad.”
She hopes to incorporate educational components into her project by partnering with local schools to bring kids out to the bat boxes, creek and pollinator garden so they can learn more about preserving the environment.
“Education is definitely a big piece of it. Because without education, you can’t take action,” Harris said. “And without action nothing happens.”