Tag Archives: Champions of the Environment

Champions of the Environment: Chesnee High Water Bottle Project

Guest post by Ms. Deborah Ezell , Chesnee High School, Spartanburg School District 2

The Chesnee High School Water Bottle Project began as an offshoot of our recycling program and my marine science class. We discuss the ocean trash patch every semester and the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean. Seeing the amount of water bottles in the recycling bins, I felt it was important to stress the need to reduce the amount of trash we generate all together.

Peer-to-peer engagement

A few students got together to make a video last year to introduce the idea to the school body about the ocean trash patch and the need to reduce the number of plastic bottles we use every day. The video was a necessary undertaking because the student body really had to understand why it is so important to stop using plastic bottles before they would buy into the inconvenience of having to fill their own bottle. They needed to know what was at stake.

The video was shown at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year we began distributing water bottles to the students. We kept coolers of ice water in each wing for students to fill up their bottles anytime during the day. The coolers were difficult to maintain because they had to be cleaned and refilled twice a day. It was very labor intensive and after six months of it the kids were getting a little tired.

Taking it to the next level

Winning the Champions of the Environment Award has allowed us to put in water fountains fitted for bottles and it has made all the difference for our water bottle program. The students in Chesnee are now invested in the program and would not want to go back to the days without the bottle fountain. We have lowered the number of plastic water bottles by 30 percent in 2015. Since January 2016 we have lowered the number by almost 50 percent!

The City of Spartanburg has begun a water bottle program, so I hope our success helps the city make a water bottle program successful across the city. We plan on taking our show on the road and spreading the word at the Spartanburg Earth Day festival and The Spring Fling Festival.

Student pride

I feel like this program will continue to be successful in the future because the students feel a sense of ownership in it. They designed the school recycling logo, created the video, wrote the grant application and then won the award. They feel pride in what they have accomplished and that pride will help keep this program going for a long long time. These kinds of programs can be difficult sometimes, but when the students take ownership of their work you as the teacher can spend more time helping them understand the importance of what they are doing.

 

This post is part of a series of posts on environmental education submitted by DHEC’s Champions of the Environment 2016 winners.

About Champions of the Environment
Champions of the Environment provides resources and support to foster environmental education and action in South Carolina’s kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms. The program is sponsored by S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, International Paper and SCE&G, with assistance from the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina. For more information, visit www.scdhec.gov/champions.

It’s for the Birds…An Introduction to Ornithology with Kids

Guest post by Ms. Amy Ellisor, Bookman Road Elementary, Richland School District Two, Columbia SC

Involving children in being responsible for the animals and natural habitat that surround us provides a foundation for sustaining our environment.  As a 2016 Champions of the Environment grant winner, Bookman Road Elementary’s ornithology project allows children to create bird sanctuaries to provide protection from predators, a safe nesting space, and nourishment for a thriving bird population for our school families and community to enjoy for many years.  Through this type of environmental education, students learn to be responsible custodians of the land, the animals and other living creatures in this mini ecosystem.

Project Summary

Bookman Road Elementary students in kindergarten, fifth grade and the school’s Ecofriendly Club created bird sanctuaries in the existing nature trail on the school property. Through this project, students learned the importance of relationships within habitats and to be responsible custodians of the land, animals and other living creatures in this mini-ecosystem.

First, the nature trail was cleared of debris, then nesting boxes and webcams were installed with the help of local experts in ornithology, biology and environmental science. All K-5th grade students, their families, and community visitors have access to the live streaming video of the nesting boxes through the school blog, as well as access to visiting the bird boxes and sanctuary on school property.

Student-friendly Introduction to Ornithology Discovery kits from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will provide additional activities and resources for fun student learning. The Ecofriendly Club will help assemble the kits and create a training video for the use of the kits and procedures for visiting the sanctuary. Observations and images will be captured in Nest Notebooks and students will use the Merlin Bird ID by Cornell for data collection analysis.

Inspirational Education

The inspiration behind our Champions project was to allow students of different ages and abilities to work to together to learn about the birds indigenous to our local area.  Bringing in technology such as mini iPads, web cams and bird watching applications allows us to make observations, collect data and share information with other people across the globe.

The best part of the project was the first time we looked onto the computer and straight into our Cardinal nest with a clear, birds-eye view.  We have also really enjoyed establishing a relationship with the experts at Cornell University.  This institution created the Merlin Bird ID application.  They have provided answers to many of our questions to assist us in setting up our project.  They are also eager to collaborate with us when our sanctuaries become populated.

Overcoming challenges

A challenge we faced was getting the webcams installed and connected to a live video feed. The original location we selected for this project was the school’s nature trail.  The trail was too far to manage with the equipment in our budget range.  However, locating the nest boxes, cameras and feeders in three key locations close to the school ended up resulting in even better locations than we originally planned.  Our existing locations are easier for students and families to access, to monitor activity and to take care of the sanctuaries more easily.

With donations of bird food, regular sanctuary area cleaning and maintenance and continuous technology, the impact of our project will remain permanently.

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Tips for Teachers

For schools wishing to create their own environmental education program, we suggest forming a partnership of students, teachers, SIC/PTO members and the support of local experts and volunteers.  Think of a project that will be simple, fun and beneficial to many people.  Organize your plan to begin with research and then plan to include time with a small leadership team to think about the participants you wish to be involved, the dedicated space needed, the cost of materials needed for your budget and the sustainability of your project.  Celebrate the success of your grant being funded with students, parents and your school community.  Notify your school district’s community relations division and inform your local media to showcase your great news!

Contact Bookman Road Elementary to come visit and talk with our resident Beacon Birds.

This post is part of a series of posts on environmental education submitted by DHEC’s Champions of the Environment 2016 winners.

About Champions of the Environment
Champions of the Environment provides resources and support to foster environmental education and action in South Carolina’s kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms. The program is sponsored by S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, International Paper and SCE&G, with assistance from the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina. For more information, visit www.scdhec.gov/champions.

Champions of the Environment: Deerfield Recycling Initiative

Guest Post by Ms. Brooke Scott, Deerfield Elementary School

Environmental education has always been a passion of mine. I fully believe in environmental project based education, which helps students learn to care about the planet, about their community, and about each other.  I work to build students’ sense of environmental self-efficacy, empowering them to improve the planet and to encourage others to do likewise. I want our students to feel they are leaders who are making great things happen. They are the change agents of the future.

Over the past two years, Deerfield Elementary in Lexington, South Carolina has created a strong recycling program. This year we directed our focus on ways we can partner with the community to make an even stronger and lasting impact on the environment and strengthen our recycling and conservation programs.

We expanded the amount of items we recycle and developed a more efficient recycling system by utilizing the recycling organizers we purchased through the Champions of the Environment grant from S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.  We created a “Planet Heroes Conservation Team” that is responsible for all of our recycling and conservation efforts throughout the school. The team is composed of two students from each classroom and the team rotates in new students every nine weeks. By year’s end almost 200 students will have served as a Planet Hero and learned about the importance of conservation and recycling.

We share our progress and our recycling efforts through “thermometers” placed in the hallways and through QR codes placed near our recycling organizers. Many relationships have been formed and ideas have been shared through our recycling efforts and events. We have impacted possibly thousands of people through social media, school-wide events, infographics, and presentations. We have worked diligently to share the story about our recycling success to hopefully motivate and inspire others. Seeing the students’ leadership shine through these opportunities is truly the best part of the project!

Challenges present themselves at various times. One challenge we face is getting the recycling to yard container in the back of the school. We are still working through this process, especially since it presents a safety risk for students dumping materials from a loading dock and requires constant supervision.

Teaching students, parents, businesses and community members about the importance of reducing landfills, saving natural resources, eliminating pollution, recycling and reducing greenhouse gas can have positive impacts on the environment for many years to come.

My advice for teachers wanting to start an environmental education project is always have your students in mind when planning anything. What do you want them to know and be able to do at the end of the project? How can you help them become leaders and teach others? Find opportunities to let your students shine! All learning should be authentic and relevant to students. Get the community involved and utilize resources around you. Don’t be afraid to ask experts to come talk to your students, plan a skype session, or have your students interview them! So many people are willing to help!

This post is part of a series of posts on environmental education submitted by DHEC’s Champions of the Environment 2016 winners.

About Champions of the Environment
Champions of the Environment provides resources and support to foster environmental education and action in South Carolina’s kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms. The program is sponsored by S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, International Paper and SCE&G, with assistance from the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina. For more information, visit www.scdhec.gov/champions.

Champions of the Environment: Building a Living Shoreline

Guest post by Allie Kreutzer, environmental education coordinator, Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School

Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School (CREECS) is located in McClellanville, S.C. –  a historic fishing village nestled between the Francis Marion National Forest and Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.

Most of our students love to hunt, fish, and boat. Furthermore, a lot of our parents, as fishermen, depend on the environment for their livelihood. Teaching our students to understand and preserve our ecosystems is just a natural extension of learning in this community.

The benefits that the salt marsh ecosystem provides for our community are innumerable. 

Oysters filter the water, provide habitat for 85% of local, commercially-important seafood species, provide a natural shoreline buffer from storms and boat wakes, and provide food for animals as well as people. Spartina marshes provide a valuable nursery ground for ecologically and commercially important marine species, a critical resting point for countless species of migrating birds, and the elaborate root system that helps stabilize the shoreline.

Our Champions of the Environment project involves building a “Living Shoreline” at the local boat landing in McClellanville. In conjunction with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resource’s Oyster Restoration and Enhancement program, all students from kindergarten through 8th grade will help restore this local salt marsh.

Elementary school students will harvest and germinate Spartina alterniflora (smooth cord grass) seeds, then transplant them along the shoreline.

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Middle school students will bag and place oyster shells along the shoreline to attract baby oysters and start a new oyster reef.
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We do several different service projects throughout the year but this is probably my favorite one. Though it can be nerve-racking hoping that your seeds sprout and your plants grow, and challenging to keep them watered over breaks, it is well worth the effort.

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The Living Shoreline project keeps students engaged all year; from getting muddy harvesting the seeds in the fall, bagging oyster shells and germinating the plants (and creating experiments on how best to grow them) throughout the year, to getting back out in the mud to transplant the grass and oyster shells onto the shoreline.

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Next year the students will get to see their efforts come to fruition as they watch the oysters and plants grow. They will also start to see animals that are attracted to the restored habitat.

This post is part of a series of posts on environmental education submitted by DHEC’s Champions of the Environment 2016 winners.

About Champions of the Environment
Champions of the Environment provides resources and support to foster environmental education and action in South Carolina’s kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms. The program is sponsored by S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, International Paper and SCE&G, with assistance from the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina. For more information, visit www.scdhec.gov/champions.

Inspiring Environmental Education

By Amanda Ley, DHEC Champions of the Environment Program Coordinator

Environmental education projects develop students’ awareness of the natural world and their impact in it, as well as encourage lifelong environmental stewardship.  Engaging students through hands-on projects such as cultivating a classroom garden, constructing a recycled bottle greenhouse, and charting the progress of a recycling program creates a sense of ownership and excitement for their work.

Leaphart Elementary students developed a watershed management plan.

Leaphart Elementary students developed a watershed management plan.

If you dream of carrying out an environmental project but don’t know where to start, then read on for some suggestions:

  • Prevent or reduce pollution by promoting a beautification/ litter pick-up program, starting an anti-idling campaign or implementing a storm drain-marking program.
  • Restore or preserve a natural area by enhancing a particular habitat, improving water quality in a pond, providing food and shelter for different species, or managing stormwater runoff to prevent erosion.
  • Make your school more water or energy efficient by installing rain barrels and water-conserving gardens, or using alternative energy to power your school’s lawnmower.
  • Utilize a novel approach to address a common issue by installing compost tumblers, harvesting rainwater or providing waste free lunch kits to reduce garbage.
Students at Southside Middle School launched a recycling program.

Southside Middle School launched a recycling program.

DHEC’s Champions of the Environment Grant program promotes environmental education by providing monetary awards to K-12 teachers and students for their outstanding environmental projects. Up to eight projects are awarded each school year and Merit and Seedling awards are available for helping smaller projects get started.

Grantees are also featured in a 30-second TV commercial and their project is highlighted on the Champions’ website. Champions is supported in part by International Paper and SCE&G.

Visit the Recent Grant Winners page to see what others have done, and visit the Advice & Ideas page for suggestions for successful projects.

To apply for a Champions’ grant visit www.scdhec.gov/champions and electronically submit a completed grant award application. Applications are due October 15 and awards will be made in November.

Ebinport Elementary will enhance their existing Classroom Garden through increased composting effectiveness, organic protection from pests and frost, space utilization with vertical gardening, and indoor seedling growth.

Ebinport Elementary enhanced its classroom garden through increased composting effectiveness, organic protection from pests and frost, space utilization with vertical gardening, and indoor seedling growth.

Be a Champion! Do your part for the environment!