CONGRATULATIONS TO NEW CANAAN'S 2020 GOLD AWARDEES!
Watson-Symington Wetlands Raised Walkways
I designed and built one continuous section of raised walkway on the Watson-Symington Preserve, a New Canaan Land Trust Property. During the wet seasons, the accumulation of water exposes roots and makes the trail very muddy and difficult to walk. Over the course of one weekend, 144 feet of continuous walkway was built to rectify the issue. After the build, I spoke with regular users of the trail to get the feedback on my project. Then I spoke with the executive director of the New Canaan Land Trust to have my project featured in the monthly Newletter and Mr. Dinan, the editor of our local online newspaper, to have my project featured in the "Did You Hear" section. I created a poster and scrapbook, which I used to promote my project when I stood outside of Dunkin' Donuts. Lastly, I created a brochure about the New Canaan Land Trust, the property, and my project, which was distributed at an event on August 24th at the Watson-Symington property.
Mental Health Awareness in New Canaan High School
I addressed the lack of awareness surrounding mental illness in teens, focusing on anxiety and depression. I created a short documentary which highlighted the personal story of my friend, who struggles with both anxiety and depression. Through the commentary of clinical social workers and teens, the story shined a light on the prevalence of mental illness in teens and how it affects everyday life. The video provided community resources to encourage those who were struggling to reach out for help. New Canaan High School integrated the video into their Health curriculum, and was shown to over 150 students.
The Malta House
I envisioned the Malta House Garden as a place that would be the perfect retreat for moms, babies, staff, and the growing community outreach program visitors that come to Malta House for support. I accomplished this by creating a Garden Design Plan that incorporated seating areas, garden elements, modern-type planters, and plantings that could be rotated and swapped-out seasonally, low maintenance, easily added onto, and garden items transportable should Malta House relocate the residential house to accommodate their growing population. Some of the things I did moving forward, were to establish a Garden Club and Board for its care, and I compiled a Malta House "Gardening Tips Manual for Beginners" with fun ideas for seasonal flowers with botanical names, descriptive facts and illustrations. It was the most amazing experience to personally witness how everyone working together made such a positive difference in the lives of everyone at Malta House.
"Catching Up with Sound" Picture Book
I wrote and self-published a picture book to raise awareness of hearing impairment in children. The invisible nature of hearing impairment, particularly among younger people, is one of the reasons they often remain undiagnosed. They have trouble communicating their issues or recognizing that hearing is at the root of them until they are older. My book, entitled Catching up with Sound, helped to expand awareness among children and teachers about hearing impairments in children and the challenges that these children face. Inspired by my own struggles in school as a child with a hearing impairment, the book explains how hearing-impaired students learn social cues in group settings and overcome challenges in understanding verbal directions through the medium of an illustrated children's story focused on two animal friends. I presented the book to classes at three local elementary schools and donated copies to their libraries.
Preserving and Ensuring Trail Access
I worked on the Still Pond Preserve hiking trail in New Canaan. Because of significant rainfall during the spring and snow in the winter, the trail becomes swampy and unusable for much of the year. To alleviate weather and seasonal problems, I constructed 160 feet of raised wooden walkways along low-elevation sections of the trail. The walkways sit above the typical water level from flooding, ensuring that visitors can utilize the trail in all conditions. I also created an informational brochure to provide visitors with additional information about the history of the preserve and its various uses.
Celia Sokolowski just finished her first year at Indiana University. During her senior year at New Canaan High School (she was a 2019 graduate) she learned in her science class about the plight of bats. She decided to focus her Gold Girl Scout Award project on the construction and installation of Bat Houses in New Canaan Parks. These mammals are endangered and misunderstood. Bats are not flying rodents that drink human blood! Bats are good for the environment. Celia shared with the public (meetings as well as information on New Canaan Parks & Recreation website) some key benefits of bats. She shared things like each bat can eat up to 8,000 mosquitos a night and pollinating plants and trees. Celia built the bat houses with the assistance of her grandparents in Virginia. She then put them up in Waveny, Kiwanis and Mead Parks. The bat houses provide bats a place to shelter and safely nest. Look for them next time you visit the parks.