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County’s Conservation District names Educator, Youth Volunteers of the Year

Photo submitted to Times Observer Heather Cass, of Tidioute, has been named the Warren County Conservation District’s Conservation Educator of the Year.

Heather Cass is the Warren County Conservation District’s Conservation Educator of 2019.

“Heather is an avid gardener and passionate educator,” according to the announcement from the conservation district.

At Tidioute Community Charter School, Cass, the office manager, is involved in numerous conservation activities — recycling, environmental education, road and river cleanups, and more, alongside the students.

“She has designed two gardens at TCCS,” according to the conservation district.

Both of them serve multiple purposes.

Joe Letko

“One was created to help with erosion and create aesthetic appeal to the area,” according to the release. “It also provides teachers with an outdoor space to teach class.”

“The second garden was created to honor a past teacher and create a visually pleasing entrance to the building and to help with water drainage in that area,” according to the release. “The gardens were installed by the school PTO, of which Heather is the president.”

She may well be involved in the creation and use of a third garden on the grounds.

“If the school is awarded a Bring Back the Monarchs grant they applied for, Heather will help a teacher at TCCS plant a pollination garden,” the announcement said. “Together they will educate the students about the importance of pollination, water sources, and food.”

Those lessons will take students through the life cycle of the monarch, including the larval stage, chrysalis, and butterfly, and include migrations.

Hannah Ruland

The monarch lessons will expand into information about butterfly houses and bat houses. In the winter, students will create suet-pine cone bird feeders.

Photos and journal records of the projects will be kept and shared with the grantors.

Outside the school, Cass is a member of the 4-H Development Council, and a member of the Ways and Means Committee that raises funding to support 4-H and its leadership programs.

She is a 4-H leader of Sanford Saddle and Spurs.

“Their group has traveled to Chincoteague Island to see the ponies and learned about the wetland and island by visiting the museum” there, according to the release. “The group has helped clean up the grounds of the school and the surrounding landscape and repair damages made to the landscape by winter weather.”

Myah Madril

“I guess I have always been someone who loves conservation,” said Cass. “I have restored several historic homes, I love antiques, like to repurpose things, and I am an avid gardener. I especially love pollinator gardens. Not only are they beautiful, they are beneficial to our environment. I enjoy learning new things. I just finished my Master Gardener training and am excited to share what I learned. I think it is so important to take care of our environment whether it is recycling, or reducing pesticides in our garden and yards through companion planting. This year, we are planning a program with our elementary students to teach them about pollinators and how they positively affect our environment. We are going to focus on butterflies because this is a fun project for students. I am honored to receive this award and hope I can make a positive difference in how our students take care of our environment.”

Youth volunteers

The conservation district is also recognizing three young volunteers.

“The district would like to bring attention to three young volunteers who have been a tremendous help and welcome addition to our team for Children’s Nature Camp (CNC),” according to the release.

Those volunteers are home-grown — starting by attending the camps, and moving into leadership roles.

“Hanna Ruland, Myah Madril, and Joe Letko first came to the Warren County Conservation District’s summer camp program as young campers themselves,” according to the conservation district. “We’ve watched them grow up through CNC (grades 1 through 6) into Youth Conservation Camp (YCC) (grades 7 through 9) and now they’ve come back to be Junior Camp Councilors (JCC) to our young CNC campers.”

“These three responsible, kind, and fun-loving teenagers are tremendous role models for the kids to look up to,” according to the release. “Being Junior Camp Councilors, Hanna, Myah, and Joe were eager to pass on what they had learned in their years of coming to camp to the younger kids.”

The councilors generally acted as mentors — helping, listening, guiding — and as targets during water games.

“In 2019, all three of them began teaching lessons,” according to the release. “They proved to be entertaining, knowledgeable, and were able to keep the kids engaged. We are proud to acknowledge Hanna, Myah, and Joe and we look forward to seeing what they contribute to the world in the future.”

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