USA

BAN THE BAG

2016, Fairfax, VA, USA

Students at Lanier Middle School uncovered a large amount of plastic bags waste in the Accotink Creek Watershed. They learned that plastic bags could kill plants and animals that call the watershed home. Realizing that encouraging recycling was not the answer, as often, recycled materials are repurposed but then eventually end up in a landfill, the students developed a canvas bag program that is part educational program, part conservation. Each Eco-sack comes with information about the health of the watershed and the impact of pollution on water quality.

The proceeds from the Eco-sack sales, which will be sold for $5.00- $8.00 per bag, will be used to purchase Dogwood trees on the Lanier campus to promote biodiversity and improve air quality. Through this solution, residents reduce the amount of waste they generate, learn about the watershed, and promote the environmental quality of their community.  Approximately $450 in Nutrien funding will cover the cost of the 300 canvas bags.

GREEN ROOF

2016, Fairfax, VA, USA

Fairfax, VA, where Lanier Middle School is located, is the site of many new housing developments. After learning about the adverse effects of stormwater runoff on the Potomac River, students became concerned with the increase in impervious surfaces in their community, which inevitably will lead to more urban runoff. Through their research, the students came across the redevelopment of Kamp Washington, which proposes putting gardens or lawns atop high-rise buildings in Fairfax.

The group wanted to incorporate this kind of green infrastructure at their school and received approval to build a model green roof on a shed in their school garden. The green roof will serve as a teaching tool for students and a model for community members. Developers of the Kamp Washington redevelopment project were invited to view the roof upon completion, in hopes that they will implement some of the designs in their project. The students also created a model of the Kamp Washington redevelopment and included suggestions around how it could be more ‘green,’ including solar panels, green roofs, and pervious surfaces. They will present the model to City Council on June 6 and talk through the project and how what they learned can be applied to Kamp Washington. The project will receive about $700 in funding from Nutrien to purchase reinforcement materials for the roof and plants.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

2016, Arlington, VA, USA

The students from Meridian Homeschool Club at St. Michael’s Church in Arlington, VA are literally changing the landscape of their community by educating their congregation about the benefits of native plants. Through their research, the students learned about the benefits of native plants and trees to the intricate ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the harm caused by invasive plants such as English Ivy.

Anxious to use their new knowledge, the students connected with their church, which was planning a landscaping project, and became involved in the process. They learned how to identify invasive plants and did a removal project on site. They recommended and purchased $250 of native plants, funded by Nutrien. The church matched this amount to double the plants purchased. After assisting with the community planting, the students did a presentation for the congregation to introduce the new garden and talk about the importance of native plants. After their presentation, several congregation members requested their assistance to create native gardens at their homes. The students plan to make their first home visit in early June

ALGAL BLOOMS

2016, Reston, VA, USA

Students at Dogwood Elementary School are concerned about the rise of algal blooms in the Sugarland Run Headwaters watershed in Reston, VA and want to lead the charge in cleaning up existing blooms and preventing future blooms from occurring. For two years the Dogwood Eco-Club has been monitoring the growth of algal blooms in Stratton Woods pond. Through their research, they learned that one of the causes of algal blooms is when humans add nutrients to their lawns. When it rains, the water run off moves these nutrients into lakes and ponds, causing algal blooms. The students want to start doing routine water quality monitoring of their local watershed, with the aid of the Reston Association Watershed Management team and the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation team.

Their goal is to determine whether or not these are harmful algal blooms (HAB’s) and to prevent them from growing in their local watershed community.  They also believe nutrient pollution and algal bloom awareness is key, and created a brochure to distribute to homeowners associations, apartment and condominium owners, and office and Industrial businesses in the Reston area. They raised over $1,200 for this project from a local foundation and will receive $200 from Nutrien to fund monitoring equipment. The first water monitoring session will take place in June 2016.

NUTRIENTS IN POTOMAC RIVER

2016, Alexandria, VA, USA

George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, VA found nitrate levels in the Potomac River were twice the normal level, putting organisms in the environment at risk. Upon further research and after surveying members of the community, the students found that the major cause of high phosphate and nitrate levels in the Potomac is improper application of fertilizer.

The students partnered with Greenstreet Gardens, a local garden shop, to educate community members. They created an addendum to an existing Greenstreet Gardens class to include a segment on proper fertilizer usage. They strongly believe that public education is the key to reducing the nitrate levels of the Potomac River, realizing that many people simply use the tool incorrectly. The students are advertising the classes and incentivizing attendance by raffling five mini rain garden starter packs, provided by Greenstreet Gardens. Nutrien will provide $317 for rain garden plants.

SEED BOMB

2016, Alexandria, VA, USA

Students at George Washington Middle School are concerned about the impact of pesticides on insects. Alexandria, VA, as many places around the world, has seen a decline in pollinators, specifically bees. Students talked with professors of entomology at Virginia Tech University and identified two interrelated potential causes of bee decline: the decline of native plants was one concern.

After doing further research, the students discovered that many non-native plants require pesticides because they do not have natural defenses against native insect predators. To address both issues in one solution, the students developed the “seed bomb,” a mixer of Leca Clay and wildflower, a native plant. “Seed bombs” will help the environment by increasing native plants in the community, which don’t need pesticides, and preventing pollinators such as, bees, from being harmed by pesticide poisoning. The students plan to distribute the “seed bombs” throughout communities and schools in neighborhoods with large pesticide levels. Each “seed bomb” will include a website address and more information about the project and the effects of pesticides on the watershed. Students have requested $399 to create a website and to support distribution. The website will include a video of the native plants growing from the seeds, as well as more information about the project and the effects of pesticides on the watershed.

GOING GREEN 2K16

2016, Alexandria, VA, USA

Despite the fact that students at George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, VA are introduced to recycling at a very young age and there are recycling bins in every classroom, 7th grader were shocked to learn that their school didn’t actually recycle. When they interviewed their principal, he explained that the budget did not include recycling and all recycling bins were dumped into the regular trash. The students spoke with leadership and learned that the City of Alexandria pays for schools to recycle. They worked with janitorial staff, and now George Washington Middle School is properly disposing the recycling bins.

Now that the school was recycling again, students wanted to be sure their peers were taking part. They created an incentive program in which student volunteers monitor the waste and recycling receptacles at lunch and reward students who use the correct bins, allowing them to choose from a “treasure chest” filled with items like pens, candy, and magnets. After 10 consecutive days of recycling, students who participated will be asked to paint their name on a recycling bin in the school’s cafeteria. The cost of treasure chest items is about $300, which will be funded by Nutrien.

CLASSES PLANT GRASSES

2016, Fairfax, VA, USA

CLASSES PLANT GRASSES IN CHESAPEAKE BAYStudents at Lanier Middle School put a creative twist the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s “Grasses for the Masses” program to connect the concept to the classroom. Students learned that native grasses in the Chesapeake Bay can control and even alleviate toxic chemicals and out-of-balance naturally occurring elements. These grasses play an important role in reversing the Bay’s degradation. Through the Foundation’s program, volunteers grow grasses native to the Bay in their homes for 10-12 weeks with equipment supplied by the Foundation. When the grass is mature, the volunteers meet at a specific location and plant it. The students’ wanted to create an easy way to their peers to take part. By growing the native grasses in science classrooms, the program can be scaled up, increasing the positive impact the program.

Students recruited 7th grade science teachers to go through the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s free native grasses training program in January, 2017. Every 7th grade science class at Lanier will be responsible for planting and raising some of the grasses. In May of 2017, the classes will take a field trip to plant the grasses in the Chesapeake Bay. This project will receive $1,500 from Nutrien for the start-up growing kits, which include items such as circulation pumps and heaters.

BAN THE BOTTLE CONTINUED

2016, Fairfax, VA, USA

BAN THE BOTTLEStudents from Lanier Middle School are continuing their fight to ban plastic water bottles at their school. Last year, the students placed 3rd in the Caring for Our Watersheds contest for their Ban the Bottle proposal. They received about $3,200 in funding from Nutrien, and an additional $5,800 from other organizations to install six water bottle filling stations on the first floor of their school building.

Now, they want to install two additional water bottle filling stations on the upper floor, so 500 additional students will be connected to their efforts.  Overall, data from the bottle filling machines shows that roughly 18,000 bottles have been refilled in only half a school year. The students estimate that is 392 pounds of plastic saved from landfills. They believe the two additional refilling station will stop over 20,000 bottles from coming into the bay. Nutrien has committed $1,600 for one additional refilling station and the students are fundraising to pay for an additional station and reusable water bottles for all students.

Media: http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2016/apr/21/lanier-middle-teams-earn-two-first-place-awards-en/

http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2016/apr/15/fairfax-lanier-middle-cleans-environmental-action-/

COMPOSTING WITH MUSTARD SEED SCHOOL

2017, Sacramento, CA

Composting Mustard Seed School

Composting Mustard Seed School

For her Caring for Our Watersheds project, Clarissa Huerta, of the MET Sacramento High School, wanted to work with students from the Mustard Seed School, a private school established to help meet the needs of homeless children. When Clarissa visited, she noticed they had a garden area, but did not yet have a compost system. Clarissa’s proposal included the addition of a compost bin to the facility, but also a lesson for the students to teach them the environmental benefits of composting and how to use the bin. Clarissa met with different age groups to share about composting, give students practice using and maintaining the bin, and to meet the wiggly worm friends inside that will help decompose the food scraps and provide free, nutrient rich soil to the school’s and shelter’s garden. Clarissa pointed out, that even at a homeless shelter, there is still substantial food waste. The compost bin would also help decrease the amount of food waste sent to the local landfill. Nutrien project funds helped Clarissa purchase the bin and provide supporting materials for the lesson.