Megan Graves from Marion, Iowa, has achieved the Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can achieve, by combating the decreasing number of pollinators in the Linn County area through direct action and community education.
During her initial research, Graves determined that the root cause of the declining number of pollinators is habitat loss. She found that if pollinator numbers continue on their current trend, 85% of plants will disappear, and each ecosystem will fall apart as the species dependent on those plants will die.
“Most people hear about these numbers through trivia games and the occasional poster, such as the fan-favorite ‘one in every three bites of food you eat would disappear without a variety of pollinators,’ but the people playing the game or viewing the poster are not able to help, because they do not know how,” Graves said.
So Graves set out to prove to her Marion community that they could make a difference, and she began by growing her own Homegrown National Park Pollinator Zone in her backyard to show them how.
Graves worked with Marion to spread awareness of the city’s current efforts to increase pollinator habitat, the 1,000-acre challenge, and hosted booths at local events like the Marion Farmer’s Market and the Indian Creek’s Nature Center’s Monarch Fest.
“At Monarch Fest, my team and I talked to around a hundred people, almost all of whom took pamphlets and one of whom said that there was a hill on one side of their house that the grass would not grow well on, so they planted a pollinator zone and it looks a lot prettier now! At the Farmer's Market, my team and I talked to 43 people, and seven said they were interested in creating a pollinator zone,” Graves said. “Four even said they would share the info with their school, friends, and family!”
On top of hosting the booths, Graves also talked to local Girl Scout Troops and created high-quality educational outreach videos that included a fun scavenger hunt for the girls to complete to show them that they could help save the pollinators.
“My goal was to improve the education of my community and save the world by increasing the amount of pollinator habitat in my area. I measured this by checking the online Pollinator Zone map through Homegrown National Parks! There was over a 100% increase in habitat area in Marion, and almost a 30% increase in people who planted gardens in the surrounding area,” Graves said.
How long have you been a Girl Scout?
I have been a Girls Scout for 10 years. I joined as a 1st grader in 2012 in Daisies.
What do you love about Girl Scouting?
I love that Girl Scouts has opportunities for every kind of person. I like learning things, so the badges and patches that we can earn are super fun for me. Our troop enjoys a lot of events sponsored by the council or activities we find in the community. We also love to just get together and play board games! I love the opportunities like the Gold Award and other High Awards because it's a reason to help the community, and you can start from any idea you want. My Gold Award was based on pollinators and plants because I love nature, but you can do anything you want that helps the community.
What role has Girl Scouts played in your life?
I've been a Girl Scout since 1st grade, and it's like it's always been there. I've gotten to try so many different activities and learned about a lot of things I might not have had the opportunity to explore. The High Awards have been fun and challenging to pursue, and I'm proud that I have accomplished all three - Bronze, Silver, and Gold. I really like that I can be part of Girl Scouts while still pursuing lots of other hobbies and interests. Girl Scouts has definitely made me a better person. I'm very introverted, but it pushes me to talk with people at cookie booths and council events. Hanging out with my Scouting friends is fun and grows my communication skills.
What is your next step after earning your Gold Award?
I'm only in 10th grade, so I don't really know what I would like to study in college. I think I may study something related to conservation, as I had a lot of fun working on my Gold Award, but I have time to figure it out.
Learn more about the Girl Scout Gold Award and the steps to achieve this distinguished honor.