Tag Archives: education

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: 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.

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!