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Marist School: Environmental Science Class
Atlanta, GAMarist School’s Environmental Science class has worked tirelessly to keep their school sustainable and to help Nancy Creek, the waterway that runs through the school’s property. Students have worked this entire school year on projects that address three key issues: invasive species, storm water runoff, and riparian restoration. Additionally, students have conducted weekly water quality tests that are sent to the Georgia Adopt-a-Stream database.
The first step for all of the main projects has been research. Students have had to learn about the issues that surround each project by researching on their own and by seeking help from their teacher, Mrs. Mandy, and the school’s sustainability coordinator, Mrs. Luke. They learned that storm water runoff was bringing pollution to the creek, that non-native plant species were overtaking the banks of the creek, and which types of native plants would help stabilize the creek banks.
The Storm Water Runoff group eyed a hill on campus that commonly floods water into the school’s “arcade”. The flooding allows for the run-off to travel over concrete where it picks up pollution that eventually reaches Nancy Creek. The group researched a solution and found that a rain garden could help to alleviate the problem. The students decided to build the rain garden at the bottom of the problem hill so that it could soak up the runoff before it hit the arcade and began its troubling path. A lot of research was done for the group to figure out the perfect soil ratio and size of the garden, but once that was done they began working in and out of class to complete the garden. The group consulted professionals from the state department and raised a lot of awareness on campus as student’s started to realize that construction of the garden was underway. The rain garden itself has been successfully constructed, and currently students are working on a plan that will direct water flow to the garden from other sources.
Next, the Invasive Species group consulted Mrs. Luke and discovered that a plant species known as Chinese Privet has overgrown in areas around the creek. The privet soaks up all the nutrients in the soil and chokes out existing native plants. In turn, it can destroy habitats and the natural ecology of an area. The group researched and discovered that a manual method of pulling out the privet would be most effective. They armed themselves with shovels and pick axes to begin the work of ridding the privet from campus. Most notably, the students are hosting a Community Privet Pull on May 6 in order to raise awareness. The riparian restoration group will plant bank stabilizing native species in the areas where Privet has been pulled.
One of the best aspects about the Marist Environmental Science class is that the students learn by actively doing. Mrs. Mandy serves as a guide, but allows the students to handle their own projects and to take responsibility for the Earth of which we are all a part.