Category Archives: Outreach

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.

Champions of the Environment: Dent Middle School Mitigates Stormwater Runoff

by
Dr. Rachel Tustin
Dent Middle School

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

Environmental education has been an important part of my life since I was a small child. I grew up in the Midwest, and my grandfather was a chemical engineer at a refinery. When he started out in his career, there weren’t a lot of regulations to protect the environment from what they were doing. He was a pioneer in fighting for protecting the environment in the oil industry. I spent a lot of time with him growing up working on various environmental projects, such as building gardens on vacant lots in our community. He said protecting the earth was a way to show your respect to whichever creator you believe in, and that is something I have carried with me for many years.

The October 2015 flood was the inspiration for our rain garden project. We have an enormous number of storm drains on our campus, that all drain into Carys Lake. At the end of last year, my students had to propose solutions to the issues they saw from our lake studies. Creating a rain garden was one of their ideas to mitigate our campus run off. I think one of the key lessons my students are learning from this project is that protecting our lake environment is an important part of their campus and community legacy. As responsible citizens, it’s not enough to just understand the lake ecosystem. They need to use that information to improve the situation for our community.

I think my favorite part of the project is getting students to apply science in a hands-on way. In designing their rain gardens, it hasn’t just been about research and coming up with a plan. Rather, it has been about applying science and engineering skills to solve a problem they identified in the community. A lot of students are taking huge pride in the fact that their design will be on our campus long after they have graduated and moved on. They are embracing it as their legacy to Dent.

The most challenging part of any project is funding and execution. We have been fortunate that the community embraced our project and we have been extremely well funded. For any teachers who are considering an environment project in their classroom, you always want to identify some funding sources. It can be granted, but it may also be donations or fundraisers. If your students are passionate about the idea, and it is worthwhile to your community, people will help you find the resources to make it happen.

 

This week at DHEC

Highlights from this week at DHEC:

Don’t Waste Food

Richard Chesley interviewed with ABC Columbia about our Don’t Waste Food S.C. campaign. Richard pointed out that 38.4 million tons of food are simply thrown away in the United States every year.  To put it another way, 40% of all food processed is simply tossed in the circular file.

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National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

nbhaad-facebook-infographic-1200x1200In observance of  National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7th, we worked with community-based organizations to offer free HIV testing testing events across South Carolina. More than 12,600 African-Americans in our state are living with HIV/AIDS, and thousands more haven’t been tested. For more information about the fight against AIDS in South Carolina, including local HIV testing sites, call DHEC’s AIDS/STD Hotline at 1-800-322-AIDS (1-800-322-2437), or visit http://www.scdhec.gov/stdhiv .

Gold Star Honor for Tobacco-Free Efforts

teamphotoThis week DHEC was recognized by the South Carolina Hospital Association’s Working Well initiative and Prevention Partners for achieving the highest standard of tobacco-free excellence.

Jen Wright of Working Well visited DHEC to present Director Catherine Heigel and members of our Division of Tobacco Prevention and Control and Worksite Wellness team the Gold Star award for creating a tobacco-free workplace and providing high-quality tobacco cessation programs for employees..

In order for an organization to receive this recognition, it must have a tobacco-free worksite policy, refer its employees to effective quit programs and counseling, provide comprehensive cessation benefits (nicotine replacement therapy and prescription medications) and offer incentives to encourage employees to quit tobacco. These are among several evidence-based components recommended by Working Well and Prevention Partners for comprehensive quit-tobacco systems at worksites.