One of our current major undertakings combines stormwater reduction and education. We are running a pilot program with two Chattanooga-area schools in which we involve students in surveying their school’s landscape, locating problems, and helping build solutions to these stormwater and erosion-related problems.
The first step: Locate the problem.
Second step: Come up with a solution.
Third step: Implement the solution.
Case Study: Thrasher Elementary
First off, we visited the fifth graders of Thrasher Elementary. After a brief introduction and discussion about erosion, we broke up into small groups and wandered around the outside of the campus. Each pair of students had a map and marked points where they saw erosion and pollution. (They marked up the playground the most! That place needs some serious erosion help!) As they mapped the campus, the students also used cameras to document what they saw.
On our second visit to the same Thrasher fifth graders, we brainstormed about what we saw and about what some possible solutions to these problems are. Each student or pair of students must then create a power point presentation presenting their preferred solutions to the problems they observed. Check out the assignment page here.
As a final step, the students will present their Powerpoint presentations to the Thrasher PTA, which will be dealing with the erosion issues as soon as they can decide what the best solutions are. With the TEC club, we will actually do some small-scale experiments with these particular erosion-control techniques. Each student or pair of students will select a particular problem point from the campus, decide on a solution for it, and create small-scale experiments showing the effectiveness of their chosen solution. The best solutions for the biggest trouble spots will be used as the basis for full-scale installation of BMP (Best Management Practice) restoration projects!
Case Study: Scenic Land School
We repeated this general process at Scenic Land school, which has different water issues from Thrasher. Where Thrasher has erosion and (former) sewage issues, Scenic Land has lots of runoff from paved, developed areas along Mountain Creek Road. With these kids, who ranged in age from 3rd grade up through 8th, we tested the water quality of the creek, checking for pH, nutrients, and the presence of nasty bacteria like E. coli (and we found some! yuck!). We also did a survey of benthic macroinvertebrates. Based on all our findings, the stream is on the verge of having “poor” and “fair” quality… not good, but better than being dead like it was a few years ago!
Our second trip to Scenic Land, we were greeted with a wonderful surprise: the kids had made a list of all the improvements they had come up with for their campus and its runoff problems and had worked together to make a poster displaying all these improvements! It was so cool!! They had lots of great ideas, including pavement leveling and removal, installation of bridges and picnic tables, and planting lots of trees and shrubs, and they were really excited about getting a frog pond. After they presented their ideas to us, we tested the quality of their nearby pond, and every student drew a food web for the wildlife in the pond.
On our third and most recent trip to Scenic Land, we did some hands-on activities dealing with runoff and preventing domestic, non-point source pollution of the water supply. First we watched the effects of different chemicals and pollutants on ground water by using our Enviroscape, and then we created a batch of dirty water that the kids had to filter using sand, gravel, and coffee filters.