Students Perform Investigations and Implement Projects on Campus to Keep Our Rivers Clean

By June 27, 2019 Blog

Freshwater streams and rivers are a valuable resource to us all, providing drinking water and places to swim, fish, and canoe. Unfortunately, only about 10% of Maryland’s waterways are in good condition. The rest rank in fair or poor condition due to polluted runoff that enters our waterways. When it rains, the water runs off of pavement, roofs, and other impervious surfaces that don’t allow for soaking into the ground. As it flows across these surfaces, it picks up and carries pollutants such as litter, oil, and gasoline into storm drains and directly into our rivers.

An advisory agency of the Potomac Basin states, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB), provides educators with a stormwater education program titled Score Four: Students, Schools, Streams, and the Bay. This program engages students in experiments and projects right on their school grounds to reduce runoff and water pollution. Using indoor and outdoor lessons and investigations, students learn about their local watershed and assess factors that contribute to its polluted runoff. Using their findings, the students then plan and conduct an appropriate stormwater action project on their campus. Action projects include native plantings, rain gardens, and storm drain stenciling. The students demonstrate ownership of their project and have pride in knowing that they are making a difference in their school and community.

In 2015 and 2016, ICPRB received two grant awards to conduct their Score Four program in Prince George’s County public schools. These projects were funded by the Prince George’s Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program. For these two projects, ICPRB collaborated with teachers at four schools in the County to conduct the Score Four program, engaging over 1,100 students.

At Northwestern High School, ICPRB teamed up with English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher, Kari Rowe. For their action project, the students installed two conservation landscape gardens at the front entrance of the school. These gardens not only beautify the campus, but also absorb runoff from the adjacent sidewalks. The gardens were such a success that the school’s principal requested that Kari and her students plant more gardens on campus with financial support from the school.  This collaboration with Kari and her ESOL students led to the development of bilingual educational materials for Spanish speakers.

At Parkdale High School, ICPRB worked with science teacher, Malka Ostchega. For their action project, the students designed and planted the beginnings of a food forest. They planted 78 native fruit and nut-bearing trees and shrubs such as low bush blueberry, serviceberry, and paw paw. The food forest is located on a hill next to the school’s parking lot. The trees and shrubs in the food forest will slow down and reduce the volume of runoff and sediment coming from the hill. Watch this video to hear what students at Parkdale High School had to say about their project.

At Accokeek Academy, ICPRB collaborated with six science teachers for the Score Four program. For their action project, the students planted native plants in raised beds that would be transplanted to their conservation landscape garden.

At the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College, ICPRB worked in partnership with social studies teacher, Carmen Wright, and science teacher, Apollo Cordon. For their action project, the students planted a conservation landscape garden next to the building’s parking lot. Students selected native plants such as butterfly milkweed to support monarch butterfly populations.

Thank you ICPRB for engaging students in environmental stewardship to keep our rivers clean and healthy!

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