After spending nine days working with National Geographic grantees at University of Colorado Boulder, these students developed proposals for projects based on the skills they learned during their experience on campus. They were given grants from National Geographic to implement these projects back home, and we’ve checked in with them to hear about their latest progress!


Grant Recipient: Natalie Spangle

Grant Project: Saving Our Sound

NS-DSC_0238Natalie has developed an awareness campaign to educate her community about how their actions impact the health of Long Island Sound.

How did you develop the idea for your grant project?

I’m fortunate to live a few blocks away from Manor Park–one of the most beautiful views of the Long Island Sound for miles! I walk there on an almost daily basis, and it still constantly astounds me how incredible it is. I wasn’t aware that runoff was particularly an issue in areas such as LIS until I learned about the harmful effects of an increase in nitrogen in certain ecosystems during my time in Boulder, CO. I was really interested particularly in that topic, and it affected me on a local level, so it was kind of perfect!

How did participating in the Boulder program impact the way you see the world? 

I have always had an interest in environmental science, particularly the aspects surrounding climate change. However, I was never quite sure what that passion could turn into later in life, until I got to Boulder. Meeting a variety of experts working in all kinds of different ways to deal with one of the most pressing issues that humanity is currently facing showed me that there are so many different paths I can take in this field. Speaking to female experts in particular about the realities of doing field research as a woman – and having to face the way women are perceived in different regions that you travel to – was a very important and practical concept to open my eyes to. In addition, I learned that it’s ok if you don’t have it all figured out at first – maybe you thought you were going to be a lit major in college, but ended up in an arctic research lab in Colorado studying ancient air bubbles! Everyone finds their passion, even if it’s not super clear where you’re headed the whole time.

Where do you hope to be 5 and 10 years from now?

Five years from now, I see myself probably heading off to graduate school, and doing field research (I desperately want to spend some time working in an ice core lab in Greenland).

Ten years from now? Wow, I don’t know… hopefully settling into a job dealing with environmental policy. Another ultimate goal of mine is to one day discover a new element for the periodic table, but I think I might need more than ten years for that one! If I do, I promise National Geographic can be the first to know.


Grant Recipient: Charlotte Bohning

Grant Project: Boys and Girls for the Environment

DSC_2244Charlotte is working with her local Boys and Girls Club to organize a number of activities and field trips that expose kids to the outdoors and inspires them to be environmental stewards.

How did you develop the idea for your service work with the Boys and Girls Club?

Nearly four years ago my mom and I volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club. We worked with an art teacher, who was a really kind and warm woman, from a well-known private school nearby. The three of us taught an art class to elementary school students with an ultimate goal of creating a mosaic bench for a local community garden. Throughout the class, we wove in lessons on sustainability and nutrition, which seemed to really enrich the experience of making the bench. The kids were so receptive to learning and were very proud of their work, which in my mind makes an ideal group for the National Geographic Mini Student Expedition project.

How did participating in the Boulder program impact the way you see the world?

Prior to the program, I was a true environmental science layperson. Over the nine days at Boulder, I learned so much about environmental science, from the research on pika to the aging of ice to the medicinal applications of flora and fauna. During the program, students were immersed in the natural world. Because we were simultaneously reminded of nature’s beauty and of the threats to its beauty, the lessons were particularly meaningful. After exposure to the direct affects of climate change, I am now a more environmentally conscious person and am more passionate about environmental concerns.


What has been your greatest adventure so far in life?

A few summers ago I had the opportunity to fly in a World War II biplane, which holds up to four people and has a fixed-wing, open design. Despite my initial fear, I went up in the plane. The pilot performed numerous tricks including a barrel roll, loop, and hammerhead turn. I saw the world upside down and experienced a thrill unparalleled by anything I had ever done before.

Grant Recipient: Hyejee Bae

Grant Project: Westwood High Composting Project

IMG_20150118_210816-1 (3)Hyejee has been working with student groups and her school administration to implement a new composting program and reduce waste in her school’s cafeteria.

How did you develop the idea for your grant project?

Last year I took an AP Environmental Science class at my high school. For one of our lab projects, we had to create and maintain small compost bins. It was the first time I had been exposed to the practice of composting and its benefits, and I started to wonder why our school didn’t have such a system in place already.

How did participating in the Boulder program impact the way you see the world?

GroupI’ve always known that climate change was an issue, but it was never an urgent matter to me personally. However through the practical hands-on activities and presentations, the Boulder program opened my eyes up to the serious and pertinent global consequences we could potentially face in the future because of climate change. Also, the program inspired (and in some ways reassured) me even as a high school student I could make a change in my local community and possibly beyond.

Where do you hope to be in the future?

I would like to start my own business—one that would allow me to work while traveling the world and meeting new people.


Grant Recipients: Jane and Grace Thompson

Grant Project: Reducing Use of Plastic Bottles at Edwardsville High

IMG_1606How did you develop the idea for your grant project?

The farmers market in Boulder was the inspiration for our idea. We were very impressed by the waste disposal setup that the market used.  It showed us that composting was an effective replacement for regular trash.


Why do you think it’s important for high school students to give back to their communities?

It is important for high school students to give back to their communities because it sets a good example for younger students.  It also gives them experience for the future and shows them that they can make a difference in the world.

What inspires you?

The beauty in nature inspires us to want to protect it.  If we don’t do something to help the earth, these beautiful things won’t be there to see anymore.

What has been your greatest adventure so far in life?

The Boulder program was probably the greatest adventure in our lives so far.  We did many things that we’ve never done before that ranged from waking up to photograph the sunrise to climbing the faces of real boulders in Colorado.  It was an adventure that we will never forget.