Skip to content

2017-2018 Champions of the Environment

Lakewood Elementary School, Horry County
Locally Grown Seed Library

Lakewood Elementary School was named the top 2017-2018 Champion of the Environment for their Locally Grown Seed Library project. The Outdoor Inquiry Teacher, Mrs. Marie Valentine, was inspired to start this project after touring a seed bank at the U. S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, SC. Mrs. Valentine's students will grow heirloom vegetables because they are open-pollinated, and they produce seeds that can be saved and replanted year after year. The students will plant several varieties of vegetable seeds in trays inside a greenhouse, then transplant the seedlings into a raised garden bed. They will chart and document which plant variety grows best in the local environment. The students will also research the most effective methods of seed harvesting, and decide how best to organize and store the seeds.

Clemson Extension will provide assistance during the project. The students will create pamphlets and set up a booth at Community Night to educate the public on how harvesting their own seeds benefits the local environment.

Academy for Technology and Academics, Horry County
Learning Gardens

Spanish teacher, garden hobbyist, and beekeeper Drew Frink, will lead high school students in creating and sustaining the Learning Gardens project at the Academy for Technology and Academics. Different growing systems will be used, including a traditional raised bed, a wicking or self-irrigated raised bed, and a deep-water culture floating hydroponic system. Science classes will record and analyze water use efficiency, soil quality, fruit production, and labor input between each type of growing system. Students in the Behavioral Health Services program will also help tend the gardens. Produce from the gardens will be used by the Culinary Arts students, modeling the Farm to Table movement, and Cosmetology students will use herbs from the garden to prepare shampoo and personal care products. Digital Arts students will create tutorial videos on how to construct and maintain the different growing systems.

Mr. Frink participates in the Horry County Schools Learning Garden Consortium, which provides support and advise for various gardening programs. The tutorial videos will be shared with the consortium to help schools expand their learning through gardening.

East Clarendon Middle/High School, Clarendon County
EC Quad Outdoor Classroom Project

East Clarendon middle and high school students will create an outdoor classroom to cultivate learning among the student population and the surrounding community. Plants, flowers, and vegetables will be grown in raised garden beds, providing natural habitat for wildlife and food for classroom animals. Organic matter from vermicomposting, compost tumblers, and compost bins will enrich the soil in the raised garden beds. A weather station will be installed in the outdoor classroom, including instruments for tracking precipitation, temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure. The data will be used by students to understand the relationship between weather conditions and plant growth. Finally, natural habitat areas will be established using bird feeders, bird houses, bird baths, a small splashing pond, and a rock garden where students can learn about wildlife species and ecosystems.

The small community surrounding East Clarendon Middle/High supports the school by volunteering time, monetary donations, loaning/donating tools and supplies, and providing specialized knowledge. Moore Farms and Botanical Garden will also provide assistance during the project.

Dutch Fork Middle School, Lexington/Richland Counties
ACTION Unified Partners: Outdoor Classroom Team

ACTION for Unity is a student-led initiative that supports students with intellectual and physical disabilities. The Unified Partners Team established the outdoor classroom at Dutch Fork Middle School three years ago. Last year, a rain garden was established on campus to resolve a stormwater runoff issue. Since that time, students have learned about erosion prevention, water quality, and conservation practices. This year, they will enhance the wildlife feature of the outdoor classroom by increasing plant and flower diversity to attract pollinators. ACTION “buddies” will work with special needs students to fill bird feeders, perform general maintenance, and create a poetry rock garden with inspirational messages.

Mentors from Clemson Extension, Riverbanks Botanical Gardens, and the Richland County Soil and Water Conservation District will educate students about conservation practices, and advise Dutch Fork Middle as they work to become a Green Steps school.

McBee Elementary School, Chesterfield County
McBee Grows a Green Thumb

This garden project will provide students at McBee Elementary School hands-on science experience before they join 4-H and Future Farmers of America. The whole school will be involved in the process from planting and maintaining the garden, to harvesting and washing all crops. Prior to planting, students will study soil make up, test soil pH, and amend the soil if necessary. They will build and decorate four rain barrels, then measure the rainfall and record how much is collected before watering the plants. Crops will be weighed and measured, and the data will be shared through hallway displays. The crops will be given to the cafeteria staff to serve to the whole school. Scraps and cafeteria waste will be put back into the garden composter to enrich the soil for future planting.

Students will sell energy efficient lightbulbs to purchase supplies beyond what the Champions grant will cover. Community interest in this school is high as it is the only elementary school in rural McBee, SC. They will be kept up to date on the project through student submitted articles in the local paper and weekly newsletters.

Jackson Creek Elementary School, Richland County
Wood Duck Habitat Installation

Jackson Creek Elementary is a newly constructed school in the Richland Two district. During construction, wetland habitats bordering the campus were preserved to provide outdoor learning opportunities. This year, the wetlands will be enhanced to provide shelter for wood ducks. First, students will visit Camp Leopold, a wildlife education center operated by the South Carolina Waterfowl Association (SCWA), where camp instructors will introduce the wood duck nest box project. Wood duck populations declined in the early 1900s because of habitat loss. The SCWA works with public and private landowners to restore natural habitats and maintain the nest boxes. Camp Leopold instructors will teach students about wood duck ecology and habitat management. They will follow up by visiting Jackson Creek Elementary School and helping the students identify and mark the best sites in the wetland for nest boxes of their own. A second follow up visit will engage the students by helping them install the nest boxes. Students will also learn how to maintain and monitor the boxes throughout the year.

The school intends this to be a long-term project, with the students preparing their classmates from the grade below to take over maintenance of the nest boxes each year.

Porter-Gaud Lower School, Charleston County
Nurturing Nature

Students at Porter-Gaud Lower School will cultivate pollinator habitats on campus by restoring an existing nature trail and school garden. Each grade level will be responsible for a portion of the project. Students and teachers will work together to clear both areas of weeds and debris, and maintain them throughout the year. They will attract Monarch butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees by adding nectar/host plants. They will also add bird feeders, bird houses, a bird bath, and a butterfly watering station. The science teacher will apply for the garden to be a Monarch Way Station through Monarch Watch, and students will record observations of pollinators along the nature trail monthly. The project will be self-sustaining thanks to funds from the lower school science budget.

Project updates will be communicated through bi-weekly reports on the school's TV show. The project will also be shared with the middle school students during an assembly, and with parents during a Parents Guild meeting.

Irmo High School, Lexington/Richland Counties
The Bee's Needs

Irmo High School is getting a demonstrator bee hive through the Lexington County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the science department is excited to incorporate it into the curriculum. Standard and special education students will work together to support the pollinators' food supply. Science classes will create and distribute informative pamphlets about what compost is and how it benefits the environment. They will also research plants that provide pollen for bees, choose seeds, and order supplies. Special education students will collect cafeteria waste and place it in compost bins. Both student groups will use the organic matter to plant and maintain seeds in the greenhouse. After the danger of frost has passed, students will choose the best locations for the seedlings and learn how to properly transfer them.

The community will be informed about project progress through the school district's parent newsletter. Also, a guest speaker from Clemson Extension will discuss the benefits of composting and which plants are appropriate for the region.

2016-2017 Champions of the Environment