Category Archives: Environment

Champions of the Environment Merit Winner: Montessori School of Anderson Compost Initiative

by
Charles Jordan
Montessori School of Anderson

This is the fifth of a series of blog posts recognizing winners of the 2016 Champions of the Environment awards.

At the Montessori School of Anderson, environmental education is an important aspect of our curriculum. Montessori philosophy encourages children to be self-directed and follow their interests. If we can provide a school environment with opportunities for children to discover the outdoors, we are planting seeds for a healthy environment. The inspiration for MSA’s Champions of the Environment project was food. We realized that after lunches and snacks, we had scrap food that was going to the landfill. This was a missed opportunity for replenishing nutrients in our garden’s soil! Through our composting project, our students are learning how red wiggler worms and bacteria can break down scrap and spoiled food into something useful and beneficial to the soil. Students learned that the worm castings not only return nutrients to the soil but they can help break up clumps of soil to allow air and water to pass through. They were surprised by some of the statistics that shows how much money families can save by composting. The students were given a lesson about the efficiency of red wigglers and how to assemble a worm bin. The class has created two vermiculture bins to compare and contrast the vermicomposting and hot composting methods.

The best part of our project is the campus-wide involvement across grades from K3 to 12th. The most challenging part of this project has been educating teachers and students about the importance of composting and what can be added to a compost pile. We think that this project will have lasting impacts beyond this school year. One of our goals is to grow crops, such as alfalfa and buckwheat that can be added to our compost in addition to food scraps, to create a continuous supply of compost for our gardens. Each level offers a daily morning snack and the students are responsible for preparing their own snack. Our aim is to create an environment where our students can grow, harvest, clean and prepare the food that they have grown. This will help them have a greater understanding of where their food comes from and how easy and rewarding it is to grow your own fruits and vegetables. If you want to start your own environmental education project, we suggest start planning and building community involvement early for your project to continue being successful after its launch.

DHEC participates in national conference aimed at keeping plastics out marine waters and surrounding areas

On March 30, DHEC’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) participated in a national conference focused on the reduction and prevention of plastics in the ocean, coastal waters and surrounding areas, such as sand on the beach. Breaking Down Plastics brought together over 500 environmental experts, non-governmental organizations, public agencies, private companies and concerned citizens to discuss the impact that plastic pollution has on the ocean environment, public health and coastal communities.

OCRM’s Coastal Services Division Director, Dan Burger, moderated the panel Government Vanguards of the Aquatic Debris Movement. Dan highlighted OCRM’s efforts, including abandoned and poorly kept vessel removal, Adopt-A-Beach and its recent cigarette litter reduction pilot study on Folly Beach. Additionally, Dan talked about how DHEC is using its MyCoast mobile app to collect data that can be used to help target reduction and prevention efforts.

Panelists from the U.S. Army, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discussed the innovative roles government plays in plastic polymer research, plastic pollution source reduction and local partnership efforts that have resulted in significant pollution reduction and healthier environments. Outside at the Plastics Solutions Pavilion, DHEC staff members Liz Hartje (OCRM) and Adah Gorton (BLWM) distributed examples of innovative educational materials and discussed how DHEC works every day to foster partnerships, reduce pollution and promote recycling.

Although there is much work to be done, South Carolina’s coastal environment benefits from DHEC’s community-based pollution reduction efforts.

Complete conference details, including video of keynote speakers and panelists, is available at http://plastic.scaquarium.org/about.

To learn more about DHEC’s Marine Debris Program, please visit

http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/Water/CoastalManagement/MarineDebrisAbandonedVessel.

Champions of the Environment: Solar Power Shines at Leaphart Elementary School

by
Ms. Heather Reitenga
Leaphart Elementary School

 

This is the fourth of a series of blog posts recognizing winners of the 2016 Champions of the Environment awards.

Our students are very excited about our solar panel project for our school greenhouse.  They are having the opportunity to learn about renewable energy options that are very attainable for us right now.  They are learning about the kind of energy that the sun provides, how this energy can be used as a renewable resource, about energy flow and how energy affects us. One thing that has helped us out is to feel good about starting out small. Our first project is using the solar power for the irrigation in the greenhouse. This isn’t a critical need and requires a small amount of energy. This low stakes approach has made us more comfortable about experimenting and learning. Because this is not high stakes energy consumption, we can have students be the designers and engineers of the systems.  Although we are starting out smaller, our panels and inverter have the ability for higher output. This project will definitely have impacts on our school for years to come because we were able to purchase a high capacity system. We will be able to continue to add to this system until we are giving out students a clear picture of the maximum capacity of these panels.

Our advice for teachers and classes that want to start their own environmental education project is to team up with experts!  We really had no one in our school that knew very much about solar energy.  We learned from Grape Solar about what type of system we needed, and then we got some great on-site information from Patrick Smallwood, one of our district’s Clean Energy Technology Instructors.  Having Patrick come out has led to a great partnership, and Patrick’s students are excited about coming out to our school for Earth Day to help us learn even more about solar energy! Environmental education is so very important for our future. We need to show our students that science, clean energy, and a clean environment are important, fun, and can impact our lives in a very positive way.

Champions of the Environment: Richland Two Institute of Innovation’s Ecofitness Project

by
Kristin Bullington
Richland Two Institute of Innovation

This is the third of a series of blog posts recognizing winners of the 2016 Champions of the Environment awards.

The purpose of the Ecofitness project is to explore mechanical energy as an alternative energy source while promoting green and healthy lifestyles.  Using a Read and Ride bicycle as a mechanical energy generator, students in the Next Energy class calculate the efficiency of the bike and compare it to other alternative energies studied in class, including solar, wind, and hydrogen fuel cells.  After using the bike for their energy efficiency studies, students will use the Ecofitness generator as an outreach tool to middle and elementary school students, as well as the greater community as a tie-in with the county library branch located on the school campus.  As the Read and Ride bicycle is designed to allow its users to read a book while exercising, it provides a unique opportunity to promote air pollution reduction, literacy, and healthy lifestyles at the same time.

The bicycle is available for supervised exercise, which feeds current back into the grid, thereby reducing the power needs within the class.  Students calculate watts generated, carbon dioxide avoided, and calories burned as measurements of the impact of the bicycle on energy use.  The inspiration for the Ecofitness project was to engage students in both environmental education and healthy lifestyles in a way that makes energy conservation meaningful to each participant.  When students discover that their laptop needs roughly 30 watts of energy to charge, and they have to provide it through moderate exercise, the meaning of a watt in terms of power becomes clearer, as well as its relationship to calorie burning and intake.  In addition, the bike can be used to charge mobile devices, which can be a powerful incentive to exercise for teens!

Environmental education is an excellent venue for interdisciplinary projects and student-generated solutions.  As an engineering teacher, I have found that most students are interested in protecting the Earth and its natural resources, but sometimes lack the specific skills needed to design their own solutions.  Environmental engineering allows students to apply their knowledge across courses, and with instruction in project management and technical content, they are able to create new solutions and become empowered to make a real difference.

The best part of the project for me is watching students explain to their peers and adults how the bike generates electrical energy; the confidence and specificity they exhibit tells me how much they have mastered our alternative energy standards.  It is also rewarding to see so many students of all ages eager to try out the bike.  The most challenging part of the project is charging a battery directly; the students have discovered that it is difficult to cycle at the needed wattage consistently, and that it is much easier to return the current directly to the grid.  However, the Ecofitness project will definitely be a permanent addition to the Next Energy class, as it provides a kinesthetic understanding of electrical power while promoting green energy and exercise.

Champions of the Environment: Carolina Springs Middle School Beautification Collaboration

by
Susanna Mayrides
Carolina Springs Middle School

This is the second of a series of blog posts recognizing winners of the 2016 Champions of the Environment awards.

One of the greatest motivations of caring for our planet is that future generations can enjoy nature, its cycles, and its biodiversity, among other things and environmental education is the greatest tool for this purpose, especially in times when climate change is jeopardizing the balance of the environment. Environmental education, in addition to generating awareness and solutions relevant to current environmental problems caused by human activities and the effects of the relationship between man and the environment, is a pedagogical mechanism that also infuses the interaction that exists within ecosystems.

At Carolina Springs Middle School, we continually search for ways to add authentic assessments to our students’ learning experiences, and we feel this is a perfect opportunity to develop in this area. We would like to make the garden a focal point of our Annual World Language Night, which we celebrate during the spring.  The vision is to have students make presentations to their parents in the target language that evening.

Some of the key lessons my students gained from the project include:

  • Engage STEM students and their parents in constructing a water-efficient handicap accessible raised vegetable garden.
  • Create a student-led collaboration between World Language Students, Special Education Students, and the students elected to the Student Government Association.
  • Teach students the importance of recycling and the prevention and reduction of air, water, and land pollution.
  • Teach the students the importance of a global conversation about land, water and air quality providing instruction in at least two target languages.
  • Teach the reproducible skills embedded in learning how to grow plants and herbs.

The best part of this project is that it involves parents of our students and gives them an opportunity to work alongside their children. On the other hand, the most challenging part of the project has been coordinating all the involved parties.

I think the project will have lasting impacts on the students. We can accomplish our short-term goals within the school year, and the long-term goals will encourage the students to work together even as they move up to our local high schools. They can instruct and help our students keep the garden during the summer and winter breaks so we can continue working on the project year after year without starting from zero every time.

My advice for a teacher or class wanting to start their own environmental education project would be to share, share, share! The main characteristic of this project is to transfer knowledge and techniques to the participants, so that they can apply them in the future without having to look for the teacher regularly. We want the teacher to become the facilitator and the student to take charge of the project. Teaching/Training is not a single direction, but a process of mutual learning and feedback, because nobody knows everything, but we all know something, and together we know a lot. It is important that we as facilitators have an open and tolerant attitude and that we are aware of the context in which we move.