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Recent Winners

The Palmetto School, York County
Rain Gardens

The Palmetto School was named the top 2015-2016 Champion of the Environment for their Rain Gardens project. Two rain gardens will be installed on campus to capture stormwater runoff from paved and hard surfaces, absorbing and filtering pollutants that would otherwise be carried to nearby wetlands and streams. Students from third to eighth grades will be involved in the planning, design, implementation, maintenance and sustainability of the rain gardens. They will observe rainfall events to help determine locations for the rain gardens; calculate water flow volume, estimate size of hard surfaces such as pavements and roofs; perform a perk test to determine if the soil is the correct mixture; select and plant native vegetation appropriate to the site conditions; and observe and monitor the filtration process. The project team will partner with environmental educators from the City of Rock Hill and York County Soil and Water Conservation District for guidance on the project and to promote community awareness. Upon completion, the project will be registered with "1,000 Rain Gardens of York County."

The Palmetto School at the Children's Attention Home provides a safe and individualized educational experience that stimulates academic achievement and personal empowerment for disadvantaged children. The Rain Gardens project continues the school's goal to enhance science and environmental education curriculum and create outdoor learning opportunities for these students.

Deerfield Elementary School, Lexington County
Deerfield Recycling Initiative

"Planet Heroes: Environmental Club" students will work to create a culture of recycling throughout the school with a strong effort focused on working with the community and teaching others about the importance of recycling. The current recycling program will expand from paper, plastic bottles and cans to include cardboard, plastic grocery bags and other plastic film, drink pouches, personal care items, tape containers, batteries, ink cartridges, and writing utensils. Students will maintain a running data record and display graphs in the hallways showing the impact of the project on the environment. Student developed commercials and public service announcements will be broadcast throughout the school and shared on the school website and YouTube.

Various recycling companies and conservation organizations will support Deerfield Elementary in meeting their recycling goals. These include Pratt Recycling, Sonoco Recycling, Funding Factory, Terracycle, Trex, South Carolina Forestry Commission, and RBUM Cub Scouts. In addition to working with Green Steps and Project Learning Tree mentors, teachers will utilize activities from DHEC's Action for a Cleaner Tomorrow, Palmetto Pride and Department of Education K-12 Litter Curriculum. The project coordinator, Mrs. Brooke Scott, previously had success with a comparable recycling initiative at Sandlapper Elementary School.

Bookman Road Elementary School, Richland County
It's For the Birds

Students in Kindergarten, fifth grade and the school's Ecofriendly Club will create bird sanctuaries in the existing nature trail on the school property. Through this project, students will learn the importance of relationships within habitats, and they will learn to be responsible custodians of the land, animals, and other living creatures in this mini-ecosystem. First, the nature trail will be cleared of debris, then nesting boxes and webcams will be installed with the help of local experts in ornithology, biology and environmental science. All K-5th grade students, their families, and community visitors will 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.

A. C. Moore Elementary School, Richland County
Improving Rocky Branch Watershed

In light of the recent flooding, A. C. Moore Elementary school students will learn about the Rocky Branch Creek Watershed and how their actions impact water resources. They'll learn how impervious surfaces, such as parking lots and paved roads, cause rainwater to flow rapidly across the land causing floods and erosion, and impairing water quality. They will adopt storm water drains to keep them cleared of debris, and monitor the water quality of Rocky Branch Creek. The Green Club students will adopt-a-waterway and do periodic cleanups of Rocky Branch Creek. The club will also plant vegetables, trees and a butterfly garden to promote soil retention, and filter pollutants by watering the gardens with rain harvested in rain barrels. Lessons will also include using a weather station to forecast rain, helping them prepare for flooding by studying weather patterns and analyzing the data.

This project will reach the A. C. Moore community by involving parents, P.T.O, business partners, the student body, nearby neighborhoods and local leaders. Partners include Sustainable Midlands, Rocky Branch Watershed Association, Sonoco, and Richland County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School, Charleston County
Building a Living Shoreline

The entire student body will be engaged in the restoration of a salt marsh habitat. In November, the whole school will harvest Spartina alterniflora seeds from the marsh. The seeds will be incubated in water for two months and then germinated in January. Elementary school students will plant the seeds in cups to be kept in the school greenhouse. In May, elementary school students will transplant the sprouts into a local marsh area that was destroyed by the construction of a new fishing pier. Meanwhile, middle school students will create flyers, a social media campaign, posters, and emails to encourage parents and local town residents to take their oyster shells to the local recycling area. Over the winter they will bag the oyster shells into mesh bags. In May, a human chain of middle schoolers will move the bags of oyster shells out into the same shoreline as the Spartina seedlings to establish 250 square feet of new oyster reef habitat. A professional sign will be placed at the project site explaining the benefits of the marsh and ways that everyone can help protect these habitats.

The structure of the oyster reef and the rhizomes of the Spartina will serve to help prevent the mud bank from eroding. The stabilized environment will develop into "a living shoreline" that will provide food and habitat for salt marsh animals.

Chesnee High School, Spartanburg County
Stop the Plastic Trash

This student led project will result in a decreased number of plastic water bottles used on campus and in the community, and promote sustainable living practices by encouraging people to drink tap water instead of bottled water. All students and faculty at the school were provided reusable water bottles, courtesy of donations from various organizations in the community. Students and faculty were asked to not buy bottled water but to instead refill their reusable water bottles at water fountains retrofitted with water bottle filling kits. Recycling students will count water bottles every week to graph changes in the consumption of bottled water and the data will be reported monthly to the school so they can evaluate the program's progress throughout the year.

Students will provide outreach about the project through slogans posted at school and in the community reminding people to not use bottled water. Additionally, the school has partnered with Spartanburg Water to help promote the use of tap water around the area. They also partnered with the Army, Navy, and Hotspot stores to continue providing reusable water bottles as more students become involved.

Dutch Fork Elementary School, Richland County
Bees and Biodiversity

Local beekeepers from the Mid-State Beekeepers Association will build and install an observation beehive that can be viewed from inside the building, and an outside guide wall that directs the bees towards the sky when taking off and landing at the outside hive access point. Students will experience first-hand the life cycle and benefits of honey bees as well as the relationship between pollen sources and pollinators. They'll learn the importance of good stewardship of pollinators and will have a vested interest in the school's garden in order to sustain the honeybees' survival.

Students will participate in a school wide art contest and small group awareness campaigns, as well as individual class research projects on the school's bees. With assistance from beekeepers, student groups will learn to scientifically monitor the bees. Also, the school technology coach will help students maintain a WordPress blog on their beekeeping journey.

North Myrtle Beach Middle School, Horry County
Chiefs Recycle Every Day

Upon an initial survey, most students at North Myrtle Beach do not recycle. This Champions Grant will serve to add recycling bins throughout the school and make students more aware of recycling. To help support a behavior change, classes will participate in the Department of Education' K-12 Litter Curriculum and DHEC's Action for a Cleaner Tomorrow. Students will be exposed to conserving nonrenewable resources, classifying recyclables, monitoring recycled waste produced at school, supporting habitats, and reusing materials. Having additional bins located throughout the school will provide easier access for collection which will increase student and staff participation. The project will be completely student driven with staff members only monitoring the activities. Cafeteria waste, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, ink and toner cartridges, and cell phones will be recycled. Shoes will be collected for "Nike Grind" and markers will be collected for Crayola "ColorCycle".

Not only will students be involved in monitoring and collecting recyclables, they'll also promote and advertise the program within and outside the school. The amount of recyclables collected will be charted on a large graph in the cafeteria so the entire school can see track their progress. Also, student developed short films and public service announcements will be aired on the school's morning news programs. Finally, students have pledged to participate in the Great American Cleanup, "Keep North Myrtle Beach Beautiful" and in monthly city-wide/beach clean-ups.

2014-2015 Champions of the Environment
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