2016-2017 Champions of the Environment


Dent Middle School, Richland County
Mitigating Stormwater Runoff

Dent Middle School was named the top 2016-2017 Champion of the Environment for their Mitigating Stormwater Runoff project. The school has numerous storm drains that empty through culvert pipes into Carys Lake adjacent to campus, and drainage issues have led to erosion and localized flooding. Dr. Rachel Tustin's seventh-grade science class students, along with the Gills Creek Watershed Student Organization, will construct a model to demonstrate how impervious surfaces cause rainwater to flow rapidly across the land causing floods and erosion, and impairing water quality. Next, they'll partner with Gills Creek Watershed Association, Congaree Riverkeeper, and Camp Discovery in Blythewood to catalog the ecology of the area and learn about local watershed management. Students will also collect data on macroinvertebrates, soil, and water quality monthly. Dr. Tustin is a certified volunteer monitor for Adopt a Stream and Little Jackson Creek/Carys Lake, adjacent to Dent Middle School, is an official Adopt a Stream Monitoring site. Finally, students will learn how to apply sustainable practices in stormwater management by designing and constructing a rain garden to reduce the amount of stormwater draining from campus to Carys Lake. Dent Parent Teacher Organization and the local Chick-Fil-A will also provide support.

Windwood Farm School, Charleston County
Beehive Scale Project

Exceptional education students at Windwood Farm Home for Children will work to improve the health and well-being of honeybees. The school's apiculture program has grown from two bee hives to four successful hives since it was established in March 2011. Funding from the Champions grant will provide access to networked live, biological data servers and a technology toolkit to conduct experiments and analyze the data. Students will gather and analyze data taken every five minutes from hive computers, including weight, temperature, humidity, audio, and video. This real-time access to the data via the Internet will allow students to research how the bee's ecological health is affected by environmental conditions such as weather, land use, disease, and parasites. They'll also submit the data to Honey Bee Net to assist NASA in land use and climate research. By determining the beginning and end of nectar flow, as well as quantity of nectar, beekeepers will be more knowledgeable about when to add and remove supers, when to move hives, and where to locate hives for maximum honey production. Honey from the hives is extracted, bottled, labeled and sold seasonally, providing money for school projects that promote social skills and improve job readiness for students.

Richland Two Institute of Innovation (R2i2), Richland County
Ecofitness Project

High school students in the Next Energy class will learn about alternative energy sources while promoting healthy lifestyles. A Read and Ride bicycle is a stationary bike that has been adapted to use energy generated by pedaling to charge small batteries and power small wattage applications, while allowing a student to read and exercise at the same time. An LED display on the bike helps students visualize the watts generated and how exercise relates to energy. Students will use the Read and Ride bike to calculate the watts of mechanical energy generated, calories burned, and carbon dioxide avoided. They'll compare that data to other alternative energy sources such as the solar panels on the school's roof and the hydrogen fuel cell in the energy lab. The school is excited about this project because it ties energy conservation and pollution reduction with exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.

R2i2 shares a building with the school district office and the Sandhills Branch of the county library. This shared community space provides opportunities for students to host monthly educational sessions about alternative energy and pollution reduction using the Read and Ride bicycle as an interactive tool to engage visitors.

Leaphart Elementary School, Lexington/Richland Counties
Solar Power Shines at Leaphart

A small off-grid solar panel energy system will be installed on the school greenhouse to help fifth grade STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) students learn about alternative energy and renewable resources. Students will first collect data on sunshine hours around the greenhouse and study irradiance maps to determine the best placement for the solar panels. After the solar panels are installed and connected to the converter and storage battery, students will experiment with solar energy production and use the energy to power fans, water pumps, and lights in the greenhouse. They will get a hands-on demonstration of the long-term environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy sources.

The community surrounding Leaphart Elementary will also have opportunities to learn about the benefits of solar power. A WordPress blog will track students' progress, provide educational materials and experiments, and feature student created projects throughout the process. Additional education about alternative energy will be highlighted during three parent engineering nights and an Engineering Day hosted by Leaphart Elementary.

Carolina Springs Middle School, Lexington County
CSMS Beautification Collaboration

Middle School 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. The Student Government Association, World Language Department, and special education classes will partner with Pelion High School to learn how to protect and conserve natural resources in three languages in an outdoor classroom setting. The garden will be designed, constructed and maintained by the students under limited supervision. Members of the Student Government Association will each be responsible for teaching students in the special education classes important concepts about gardening and environmental concerns using the targeted language.

In spring 2016, four teachers at Carolina Springs were awarded a mini-grant that provided enough funding to start a school garden. However, several of the special education students would have had limited access to the garden. The Champions grant will provide for the construction of a handicap accessible raised garden bed increasing the learning opportunities for special education students.

Sneed Middle School, Florence County
Soiled Again!

Ms. Lisa Perry's seventh grade science class students and the Environmental Action Club will compost food waste from the cafeteria kitchen and use it to enrich the soil of two pollinator gardens on campus. Science students will learn about composting through DHEC's Action for a Cleaner Tomorrow Curriculum and the Environmental Action Club will design a program to educate the student body about what can and cannot be composted. Then buckets will be placed in the lunch room in which students can place their compostable items and Ms. Perry will place a vermicomposting bin in her classroom. Students will collect quantitative data on the change in levels of nutrients over time, keep records, and present their findings from their hands-on experiments with decomposition.

The Environmental Action Club will educate the school community about composting via daily announcements; posters in the hallways and cafeteria; and public service announcements. They will also have a table at the Kalmia Gardens Earth Day Celebration to educate the wider community.

Northwest Middle School, Greenville County
Bring Back the Birds and Reduce Waste

Northwest Middle School will use their Champions grant to reduce waste and enhance natural areas on campus. The school does not currently have a strong recycling program so the newly created Panthers Eco Club will distribute bins to the cafeteria, commons areas, and classrooms to collect paper, plastic bottles, and glass. Public Service Announcements about recycling will be shared through the morning news show to increase awareness about the impact of garbage in natural areas.

The special education classes will build birdhouses with the help of a local builder and art class students will decorate the birdhouses. Eighth grade students will install the birdhouses and distribute information about the project to various community groups. All science classes will research native bird species and create informational signs to be installed along with the bird houses.

Newberry Academy, Newberry County
Think Outside the Trash

Newberry Academy will partner with Keep Newberry Beautiful and Newberry County Soil and Water Conservation District to improve the school's recycling program and enhance the campus environment. New bins will be placed indoors and outdoors to collect recyclable material during and after school hours and eco-friendly recycled plastic benches will show students what can be made with recycled materials. Students will learn about natural resource conservation and sustainable gardening practices by establishing a rain garden in an area where poor drainage has created erosion problems.  The area will be further enhanced by adding bluebird boxes and hummingbird feeders. Each grade will have their own section of the garden to tend. A maintenance schedule for the garden and recycling program during the school year and summer months will ensure the sustainability of the project.

The community surrounding Newberry Academy will also be involved in this project. Parents, the Native Plant Society, Clemson Extension, City and County Councils, local farmers, and even the Mayor have volunteered their time and resources to ensure the realization of this project.

2015-2016 Champions of the Environment


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


K-12 Students Teachers