By Marvin Schwartz, Ozark Society Foundation Chair

The OSF Grant Committee has finished reviewing the proposals submitted for the 2022/23 Youth Engagement in Conservation grant cycle. The committee received 15 grant requests totaling $32,752.95. After reading the proposals, reviewing the budgets, and meeting via Zoom to debate the projects, we have decided to approve full or partial funding to 9 organizations for a grand total of $14,531.05. The selected youth grants for 2023 are listed. Please recognize Grant Committee chair Roslyn Imrie, OSF board member Susan Young, and the community members who assisted in this next year’s program.

Also, the Sassafras Award book is soon to be delivered to a printer. We are hopeful to announce the winner and have books for distribution early next year.

Ozark Society Foundation Youth Grants 2023, Summary of Grant Awards:

Arco Iris Earth Care

Location: Newton County Arkansas

Scope: 15 BIPOC students, 6th-12th grade

Proposal Summary: Arco Iris Earth Care will work to reach BIPOC in rural parts of Arkansas. They will connect these students with nature through hikes and invasive plant removal projects.

Amount Requested: The organization requested supplies such as flyers, snacks, and educational materials for their program as well as fuel and transportation funds.

Amount Approved by Committee: $491.82.

Clear Springs School

Location: Eureka Springs, AR

Scope: 74 students, Prk-12th

Proposal Summary: Clear Springs Students will design and help build a trail on their campus that will then be used by students as well as used by the local community particularly during community events.

Amount Requested: Their budget included surveying tools for the students to use in the trail design as well as tools to construct the trail. We chose to fund all these tools and an educator which will be $1075.23. The budget also included a large kiosk and signs.

Amount Approved by Committee: $1075.23

Illinois River Watershed Partnership

Location: Cave Springs, AR

 Scope: 500 students, 9th-12th graders

Proposal Summary: IRWP will take high school students to local streams where the students will assess stream quality by collecting benthic macroinvertebrates from the stream bed and intensifying the specimens.

Amount Requested: The budget request is for supplies directly related to getting the students into the streams such as nets, waders, and educational materials. The committee liked this proposal because it was clearly aligned with the OSF mission, got students directly involved in stream conservation, and asked for directly related materials. Therefore, we unanimously decided to fund the entire project.

Amount Approved by Committee: $2,800.83

Jasper Elementary School

Location: Jasper, AR

Scope: 25 second graders

Proposal Summary: The second grade is studying birds, building bird houses, and observing birds. The proposal supports creating a space at the school as well as sending the students home with bird houses so they can bring birding home with them.

Amount Request: The budget was well planned and asked for supplies and materials directly related to the project such as bird house kits, a bird feeder, binoculars, and bird ID books. The committee would like to fund this entire project.

Amount Approved by Committee: $1332.71

Northwest Arkansas Land Trust (NWARLT)
Location: Northwest Arkansas region
Scope: 450 students, grades K–12
Proposal Summary: Using binoculars and field guides purchased with OSF grant funds, NWARLT will expand their outdoor educational programming at the Kessler Mountain Classroom, Wilson Springs Preserve, and the Betty Hinshaw Bird Sanctuary to include birdwatching, offering students “new ways to connect with the outdoors around them, both in rural and urban areas.”
Amount Requested: $1001.07 to purchase 25 binoculars and 25 Birds of Arkansas field guides.  

Amount Approved by Committee: $1007.07

Ozark Trails Council, Boy Scouts of America

Location: Missouri Ozarks region
Scope: 135 youth, grades K–12
Proposal Summary: Conduct a four-week summertime “conservation training camp.” Scouts will learn to develop, plan, execute, and monitor conservation projects by installing demonstration projects at Camp Arrowhead.
Amount Requested: $2980.65 for tools, lumber, hardware, conservation-related instruments, safety gear, and plant materials/seed
Amount Approved by Committee: $2980.65

T.G. Smith Elementary School
Location: Springdale, Arkansas (Washington County)
Scope: 350 students, grades 3–5 
Proposal Summary: Students will expand an established milkweed garden at the school by planting a variety of pollinator-friendly plants, and will study the importance of pollinators overall and monarch butterflies in particular.
Amount Requested: $2990 to purchase soil and plants
Amount Approved by Committee: $1000. (The committee feels this project can be accomplished for much less than the amount requested by partnering with local organizations such as the Washington County Master Gardeners and Washington County Master Naturalists. We propose partial funding and will assist the teacher in contacting the potential partnering organizations.)

University of Missouri Newton County Extension

Location: Neosho, Missouri, with regional outreach

Scope: 80 students, grades 9–12
Proposal Summary: Led by a University of Missouri horticulture professor and local Master Gardeners, students will create a native grass educational display at the Newton County (Missouri) Extension Office. The display will be used by area educators to teach the importance of native grasses, with a special focus on agricultural best-practices.
Amount Requested: $2357.64 to purchase native grass plants, soil, mulch, and border rock; $264 for mileage and advertising.
Amount Approved by Committee: $1771, the amount requested to purchase native grass plants.

Wonderful Waterways

Location: Benton County (Bentonville-based)
Scope: 150 youth, grades pre-K–12
Proposal Summary: Organize student volunteers to participate in three county-wide cleanups of waterways.
Amount Requested: $1321.74 for tools and safety supplies, $750 for teacher honorarium, $801 for fuel and waste disposal fees.
Amount Approved by Committee: $2071.74, the amount requested for tools, safety supplies, and teacher honorarium (We declined to fund the fuel and waste disposal fees but will provide resources to get the disposal fees donated.)