Champions of the Environment: Recent Winners

Bluffton High School, Beaufort County
Project Unify Farm Market 


Students at Bluffton High School will enhance their food garden/outdoor classroom by reducing water usage and incorporating a composting program. The Project UNIFY Farm Market began in 2018-2019 when Environmental Club members partnered with special education students to develop job skills and grow healthy produce using sustainable gardening practices. This year sprinklers, drip irrigation, and nutrient film technique hydroponics will increase water efficiency. Cafeteria food waste will be collected, weighed, and broken down through thermophilic composting and vermicomposting. Finished compost will be converted into “tea” using a ten-gallon compost tea brewer, and the tea will be sprayed onto plants as a fertilizer and organic pesticide. In addition to winning the Champions Grant, the Environmental Club secured over $8,000 to construct the farm market through other grants, donations, and fundraising. They also stretched that money by designing, testing, and building their own hydroponic systems.

Bluffton High School is seeking Green Flag certification through the National Wildlife Federation Eco School’s US program. Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science students will complete the Consumption & Waste Pathway to Sustainability by working on AP Service projects (a new initiative affiliated with the College Board’s AP Program). The Eco School’s US program uses a guided process that ensures students complete an environmental audit, form an eco-action plan, monitor progress, and involve the community. Outreach to the community will include sustainability messaging through presentations to the Mayor, peer demonstrations, and a symposium featuring Ted Talk presentations.

Blythewood High School, Richland County
Bengal Biodiesel


Blythewood High School students will learn about sustainable energy and prepare for STEM careers as laboratory technicians in biodiesel production. Thanks to the discovery of a small-scale biodiesel production apparatus on campus, students currently produce fuel from recycled cooking oil through a catalyzed transesterification process to power tractors and lawnmowers. However, the fuel is not approved for use in vehicles. For the fuel to be used in Richland School District Two school buses and other diesel equipment, it must meet ASTM D6751 standards. The grant will help purchase access to the ASTM procedures required to meet standards. Students will gain industry standard laboratory experience through the five sub-processes of biodiesel creation: 1) Initial Preparation, 2) Transesterification, 3) Washing, 4) ASTM D6751 testing, and 5) Methanol Recovery. 

Chick-Fil-A, San Jose, Carolina Wings, and other Blythewood-area businesses will be approached to donate used cooking oil. Students will become college and career ready through internship-style opportunities and partnerships with DHEC, Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Charter NEX, and Invista Chemicals. Westinghouse, the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility, is willing to hire students who have completed this course upon graduation.

James B. Edwards Elementary School/Mount Pleasant Academy, Charleston County
Citizen Scientists


Fourth grade students will become citizen scientists as they restore a salt marsh habitat, and track changes in the atmosphere and hydrosphere. Through the Seeds to Shoreline Program students will harvest Spartina alterniflora seeds, germinate them over the winter, then transplant them in an estuary in the spring to offset negative human impact. Throughout this process, students will also use a school-based weather station and mobile app to collect weekly data on relative humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure. The data will be uploaded to the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) website, an international hands-on environmental science and education program. This gives students access to visual data from other schools, allowing them to compare and contrast their own data to local, regional, and global environments. They’ll also be able to better understand changes in the coastal environment including sea rise, increased hurricane activity, and receding salt marsh habitats. Student will report their findings to NASA and NOAA through GLOBE-based lab reports and graphs.

The students will partner with the SC Department of Natural Resources, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Coastal Conservation Association, the Eliza Lucas Pinckney Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Coastal Conservation League. School volunteers will assist at intervals throughout the year, and a student’s father, who is a local meteorologist, will help the children take measurements and interpret the data. Project progress will be shared through the school’s social media, the weekly school news, the local news, and the school district website.

Windsor Elementary School, Richland County
Flexible Watering System


The school garden will be enhanced with the addition of a low-maintenance watering system to ensure year-long hydration. Since May 2015, the school has developed a .25-acre garden with twenty-one raised beds, a butterfly garden, compost bins, trees, bird houses, and bird feeders. It has been a challenge to secure volunteers willing to commit the time to keep the extensive garden watered, using just one hose, especially during the hot summer months when no students or faculty are on campus. The Champions grant will provide for the installation of drip irrigation hoses, overhead sprinklers, underground irrigation channels, and rain barrels providing a permanent, efficient solution. Students will research and select the appropriate equipment and will help with installation. With the time saved, the school can focus on expanding the garden by adding more bird-friendly elements, constructing student learning stations, and improving their composting program.

This project engages students to create the best solutions for a vibrant, resource efficient garden. It will also enable them to expand their work beyond watering, so they can continue to develop community partnerships. Community outreach will be accomplished through updates in the garden newsletter, an “Evening in the Garden,” and the annual school festival. The school will also actively network with the middle and high schools into which Windsor feeds to establish volunteer opportunities for those students. 

Henry L. Sneed Middle School, Florence County
Wildlife Oasis


Sneed students will create a habitat for wildlife displaced from nearby development and provide a year-round food source for native pollinators. SC Clemson Extension 4-H has funded the development of a wildlife food plot on the school campus. Quality Deer Management Association and Wannamaker Wildlife donated seeds for sunflowers, sorghum, buckwheat, and cowpeas to provide food for deer and honey bees from the school’s apiary. Cameras with infrared technology will record nocturnal visitors to the wildlife habitat. Trees, shrubs, and plants will not only provide cover for animals, but will also provide sustainable stormwater management through rainwater infiltration and pollutant removal. In addition to the wildlife food plot, a pond and sensory garden will also be developed. Clemson Extension has partnered with the school to discuss initial planning for pond development. Rain barrels and automated sprinklers will help the sensory garden be water efficient. 

Scout Troop 475, local Master Gardeners, Carolina Clear, Keep Florence Beautiful, Kalmia Gardens, Eat Smart Move More, and City of Florence will partner with the school or provide additional funding for the project. The community will learn about the project through school and district links. 

Polo Road Elementary School, Richland County
Dirty Details


Third and fifth grade students in the STEM Outdoor Learning Club will learn about soil conservation and the importance of relationships within habitats. Program facilitators from Camp Discovery will instruct students using a hands-on learning model about soil, applying a lesson plan provided by the Richland County Soil and Water Conservation District. Students will observe decomposers such as insects and other organisms to learn how they support soil health. Students will also learn protocols for proper soil sampling, as well as soil maintenance. They will apply their knowledge by planting a sustainable garden that will attract wildlife. This garden will include living and dead plants, animals, fungi, and other microbes that will enhance soil quality. Students will use soil test kits to maintain soil health and record growth data in their science journals. This data will be shared with the Camp Discovery Director and scientists through the GLOBE website.

Camp Discovery staff will bring their soil kits to the school to reduce travel costs. The Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and School Improvement Council (SIC) will organize a grand opening of the garden and extend an invitation to the entire community. Garden images will be shared via the school’s social media, as well as Camp Discovery’s social media and website.

Walhalla High School, Oconee County
Pollinator Garden Expansion


The school campus is on the migratory pathway for Monarch butterflies and has a Langstroth bee hive, as well as an observational hive. To support these pollinators, the Green Steps class will expand two existing gardens by increasing the number of flowering plants and establishing an irrigation system for both gardens. They will install a drip irrigation hose and rain barrel to conserve water and use it more efficiently. Students will also add “bee hotels” to the gardens to increase the habitat of non-honey bees and learn about the ecosystem benefits these bees provide. Signage will be added to highlight the types of pollinators garden visitors can expect to see.

A recently retired teacher is getting her Master Gardener and Native Plant certifications and will get her volunteer teaching hours by partnering with the school. The community will learn about the school’s progress through the Bee Cause project, the Green Steps website, the school’s social media channels, and the local newspaper. 

North Myrtle Beach Middle School, Horry County
Green Wall Project


Service-Learning class students will create a vertical garden to demonstrate water and energy efficiency. Several factors were considered to determine the best location for this Green Wall Project: 1) it should not be in a high traffic area so students are not be tempted to pull the plants down, 2) it should have morning sun, and 3) it should be installed near a building water spigot and gutter to use water as efficiently as possible. After finding a suitable spot, students started collecting two-liter soda bottles and drilling holes in them to use as flower pots on the wall. A community volunteer will help students cut timber to frame the garden. Rain barrels will be established in several locations near the garden and compost will be used to enrich the soil.

The school community will be asked to donate items to help install the garden and fundraisers will be held to leverage additional funds. 

Emerald High School, Greenwood County
Viking Garden


Emerald High School students will learn how to maintain a healthy body and a healthy environment by recycling, composting, and enhancing the ecosystem. Students will establish a vegetable garden, include a pollinator element to attract local bee populations, and install a school bee hive. Students and teachers will study soil maintenance, water efficiency, and composting as they work together to build the garden beds. Special education students will contribute by planting seeds and monitoring the growth of the first crop. To maintain the health and longevity of the garden, Classes will be assigned a scheduled time to weed and water the garden. 

Local medical professionals, Greenwood Master Gardeners, entomologists from Clemson Extension, and composting companies will be invited to the school as guest speakers. Local businesses will be project sponsors, donating supplies and assisting with publicity. The school will host community events to promote gardening and landscaping.

Dent Middle School, Richland County
Improving Air Quality


Students will learn how to collect outdoor air quality data, as well as how to identify factors influencing air quality. Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students in magnet programs will collect air quality data using the Air Egg. These air quality sensors are designed to be student-friendly and easy to operate. They also include software to download and manage data. The focus will be on air quality around the bus loop and courtyards, where students will use the data to research and develop solutions that they will test and present to the school board. To supplement this study, Dent will enroll in the Breathe Better program available through the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Other supplies needed for the project will be paid for with student fundraising efforts and PTO contributions. The school is working toward their Green Steps certification and will share videos about the project along with other educational materials through their Green Steps website and social media platforms.

2018-2019 Champions of the Environment

Contact

Champions Coordinator: Amanda Ley, (803) 898-4183