Tag Archives: Champions of the Environment

Eight S.C. Schools Receive Champions of the Environment Grants

Eight schools have been awarded grants to support efforts to educate the next generation of environmental stewards.

“This year, Champions of the Environment grant program winners will establish wildlife habitats, and develop learning gardens and outdoor classrooms,” said Amanda Ley, DHEC‘s coordinator for the Champions of the Environment program. “Environmental education programs like the Champions program provide opportunities for students to become engaged in real environmental issues that go far beyond the classroom and hopefully make a lasting impact.”

About Champions of the Environment

Established in 1993, Champions of the Environment has been empowering youth environmental action for 25 years. 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 DHEC, International Paper and SCE&G, with assistance from the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina.

“Some of our first Champions would be in their 40s now, with families of their own,” said Ley. “We hope that they have carried on the culture of environmental stewardship, promoting behavior change in South Carolina.”

The eight Champions of the Environment winners

This year’s grant winners are:

  • Lakewood Elementary School, Horry County — Students will establish a seed library by growing, harvesting, storing, and sharing seeds from locally grown heirloom vegetables.
  • Academy for Technology and Academics, Horry County — Plants will be grown in three different garden systems to determine which one results in better water use efficiency, soil quality, plant production, and labor input.
  • East Clarendon Middle/High School, Clarendon County — An outdoor classroom will be created to teach students about natural habitats, composting and recycling, and the weather’s effect on plant growth.
  • Dutch Fork Middle School, Lexington/Richland Counties — Students in the ACTION (Assisting Communities Together Inspiring Our Neighbors) Program will work with special needs classes to improve an outdoor classroom by increasing plant diversity to attract pollinators.
  • McBee Elementary School, Chesterfield County — The entire school will be engaged in hands-on science by planting and maintaining a garden, building and decorating rain barrels, and composting cafeteria waste.
  • Jackson Creek Elementary School, Richland County — Naturalists from Camp Leopold will help students create a wood duck habitat in the wetland surrounding the school.
  • Porter-Gaud Lower School, Charleston County — Students will cultivate pollinator habitats on campus by restoring an existing nature trail and school garden.
  • Irmo High School, Lexington/Richland Counties — Standard and special education students will join forces to support a bee population by composting cafeteria waste for a pollinator garden.

Visit the DHEC website for more information about the Champions of the Environment program.

Champions of the Environment: Northwest Middle School

We live in a society that is focused on growth and development. As we continue to do this, we must encourage our children to protect the beauty of their communities. Northwest Middle School is located along side the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Greenville County. Our goal was to get our students to encourage beauty while protecting the many species of birds in our area and protecting their homes.

As a school we recognize that we are lucky to live in a beautiful part of Greenville County. We know that as populations grow so too does the amount of waste products. As part of the grant, we were able to enhance a basic recycling program from just paper to now including plastic, glass, and cardboard. Our students are recycling hundreds of pounds of waste each year that won’t end of up in landfills or on the side of the road. Our major goal of the grant was to provide beautiful bird houses around our campus. We now have installed 16 birdhouses for various types of birds in our area. We can bird watch and identify different species living in our houses. Students constructed and installed the birdhouses. They made signs for each birdhouse with information about native South Carolina birds.

The best part of this project was that it helped the entire school get involved. Some of our students built the houses while others painted and stained them while others worked on the signs for them. It truly became a school wide project. The houses were installed by parents and community members. In the spring we have been able to see many birds taking advantage of these new houses. Students get to enjoy seeing them fly around our campus and enjoy these houses. Parents and visitors are enjoying seeing the great work of the students and the beautiful birds.

These projects will be long lasting. The bird houses will continue to provide beauty to our campus while the recycling program will benefit our environment as we continue to support recycling efforts. Our students are learning more each day about protecting the environment for all people and creatures as part of their science classes and by watching the great things happening on our campus.

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.

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.