Busy as a bee, is how the saying goes.
In Anna DeVolld’s case, it’s busy on behalf of bees. The ninth-grade Soldotna homeschooler has been pouring her heart and time into a Promote Our Pollinators project to offer education about the importance of pollinators, increase their numbers and inspire the next generation to be good stewards of the environment.
“I love gardening. It’s one of my favorite things to do. And one day I was looking at my sunflowers and there was this clump of bees on there and I wondered, ‘Why were they there and what were they doing?’ So I did some research and I just fell in love with pollinators,” Anna said.
DeVolld placed third in the 2019 Caring for the Kenai competition and last week was announced as the President’s Environmental Youth Award winner for Region 10 of the Environmental Protection Agency.
“I was super honored and, really, this was a community award. My idea started with Caring for the Kenai and the community has really embraced it,” she said.
The POP project has grown quite a bit past its original scope. Anna’s Caring for the Kenai project involved creating Pollinator Packs — portable gardens of pollinator-friendly plant seedlings, which she distributed to local businesses and individuals.
“They’re creating food sources for pollinators in urban areas. Without the flowers in our urban areas, pollinators really don’t have a way to cross those distances and it’s my hope that local businesses and individuals will place those outside of their homes or businesses to create those pockets of food,” Anna said.
She’s also created a website about the importance of pollinators and why their numbers are declining, an informational flyer and an activity book for kids. She’s expanded the project to create an online class and curriculum kits for in-person classes, which she distributed to local schools and the Soldotna Senior Center. Her POP social media has reached more than 15,000 people worldwide.
To accomplish all this, Anna has written several successful grant applications and has given so-many-she’s-forgotten-the-number presentations about the program.
And this is just the beginning.
“I actually just applied for my business license. So I’m turning POP into a business next year. I’m still working out the details but I’m going to be selling my Pollinator Packs and my curriculum kit boxes,” she said.
Anna as learned quite a bit about pollinators in the process. Her favorite fact?
“I learned that native pollinators are best for our flowers. Like, imported honeybees will not pollinate quite as well as our local ones,” she said.
Anna’s learning experience extends far beyond what she’s learned about biology and ecology.
“So many things. Like, job skills, just learning how to write the grants, learning how to be able to condense things, learning how to create a website, learning how to use social media. I discovered graphic design with my flyers and my activity books. I learned a lot of cool stuff,” Anna said.
Mom, Shona DeVolld is, of course, proud of all the awards Anna has won for the project, the President’s Environment Youth Award being just the latest. More than that, though, she’s excited to see Anna’s growth through all her hard work.
“I’m proud of her perseverance, her hard work, her heart for the community, her willingness to really go outside of her comfort zone,” DeVolld said. “This has really pushed her and challenged her to get out into the community and to meet new people. She has just blossomed before our eyes this year. She’s grown so much.”
Shona says Anna has put in 450 to 500 hours on the project since she started a year and a half ago, much of it with her little sister, Sarah, at her side. And there have been a lot of helpers in the community, as well.
Anna says she plans to continue POP as a business and maybe wants to be a science teacher someday to continue to have a way to inspire kids to care about their environment.
“I’m hoping that POP doesn’t just affect our community environmentally. I hope that it shows young people that being smart is cool and you don’t have to be embarrassed because you like to go to school and learn new things,” Anna said. “I’m also trying to be a good role model for other young girls to show them that being interested in science, technology, engineering and math is not something to be ashamed of, it’s something to celebrate and pursue.”
To find out how you can help promote our pollinators, visit www.pollinators.devolld.net.