Eight South Carolina schools have won grants to support their efforts to educate the next generation of environmental stewards, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced Monday.
One of those schools is Greenville County’s Northwest Middle School.
The school will receive $2,000 from DHEC through its “Champions of the Environment” program, which has rewarded schools statewide for environmental action and awareness since 1993. International Paper, SCE&G, WIS-TV and WCSC-TV sponsor the program with assistance from the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina, according to DHEC.
“This program provides the opportunity for students to have some hands-on learning with the environment,” said Amanda Ley, DHEC’s coordinator for Champions of the Environment program.
Northwest Middle School is using its grant to reduce waste and enhance natural areas on campus as well as create the Panthers Eco Club. That club will start a recycling program, distributing recycling bins to the cafeteria, commons areas and classrooms to collect paper, plastic bottles and glass.
The school plans to make public service announcements about recycling that will be shared through the morning news show to increase awareness about the impact of garbage in natural areas.
“We live in a very beautiful part of the county, so we want our students to play a part in that. We really want our students to understand that they can have a real impact on the local environment by improving their own,” said David McDonald, principal at Northwest Middle School.
He added that students would participate in bird conservation as well. Special education classes are going to build birdhouses with help of a local builder and the art classes will decorate the birdhouses.
Also, eighth-grade students plan to install the birdhouses and distribute more information about the project to various community groups. Science classes will research native bird species and create informational signs, which will be installed with the birdhouses, according to McDonald.
While some birds build nests on tree branches, porches and gutters, other birds, which are called “cavity nesters,” search for holes in wood to build nests and lay their eggs. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough holes.
But birdhouses, also known as nest boxes, provide those holes, giving a home and nesting spot to many species of birds. Birdhouses can also provide warmth during winter months as well as protect bird eggs and baby birds from hungry predators, including squirrels, raccoons, snakes, cats and house sparrows.
“We had more than 30 entries this year, and some were really creative,” said Ley. “The Northwest Middle School recycling program and bird project really stood out. Their efforts should create a culture of environmental stewardship at the school and in the community.”
McDonald said both projects would begin sometime in the spring.
In addition to the grant, the school will appear in a commercial detailing the project. That commercial will be featured on WIS-TV in Columbia, the school’s website and YouTube, according to Ley.
This year’s “Champions of the Environment” grant winners are:
Dent Middle School, Richland County
The Gills Creek Watershed Student Organization will partner with local environmental organizations to construct a rain garden on campus designed to mitigate stormwater running off to Carys Lake.
Windwood Farm School, Charleston County
Using a technology toolkit, students will study live biological data servers to research how the ecological health of honeybees is affected by environmental conditions.
Richland Two Institute of Innovation, Richland County
Students will learn about alternative energy by using a “Read and Ride” bicycle to generate power for small-wattage applications while promoting healthy lifestyles.
Leaphart Elementary School, Lexington, Richland counties
A small off-grid solar panel energy system will power the school’s greenhouse and teach students about alternative energy and renewable resources.
Carolina Springs Middle School, Lexington County
Students studying world languages will learn about gardening and environmental concerns in their target language by constructing and maintaining a water-efficient, handicap-accessible raised vegetable garden.
Sneed Middle School, Florence County
The Environmental Action Club will use compost made from cafeteria food waste and vermicomposting to enrich the soil of two pollinator gardens on campus.
Newberry Academy, Newberry County
Newberry Academy will work with community partners to revamp the school’s recycling program and restore the natural environment on campus.
Northwest Middle School was also recently awarded a $5,000 grant from the nonprofit PalmettoPride to build a Carolina Fence Garden, which houses a native plant for every square inch of the garden.
For more information, visit scdhec.com.