2018-2019 Champions of the Environment

Washington Center, Greenville County
Sustainable Seagulls 

Washington Center was named the top 2018-2019 Champion of the Environment for their Sustainable Seagulls project. Students at this separate school facility have significant intellectual, health, and/or physical disabilities, and are productive members of the community, doing their part for the environment. They will reduce land pollution by using discarded items to create artwork and by composting food waste to enrich garden soil. They’ll also conserve water by installing rain barrels, using the water to irrigate non-food plants. Students will use herbs and vegetables from the garden to make pestos and salsas. Bird feeders and Christmas ornaments will be made from gourds and okra. The upcycled artwork, groceries, and decorations will be sold through the Sustainable Seagulls Shop.

The school will educate the community about sustainability by engaging volunteers from Master Gardener groups, Scout groups, and 4-H clubs to help with the project. They’ll highlight their success on the store’s blog and through newsletters.

Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School, Charleston County
Keep It Clean

This student-led project will engage the community to eliminate marine debris in the coastal fishing town of McClellanville. Middle schoolers will conduct weekly trash sweeps of the creek using kayaks. They’ll work to ban all plastic bags, straws, and bottles at school, and they’ll encourage the adoption of reusable water bottles. Elementary school students will educate the community about how deadly plastic bags are to marine life, and they’ll start a program that allows families to turn in their plastic bags to be recycled in exchange for reusable grocery bags. Local businesses will be encouraged to stop using disposable plastics and polystyrene. In return, the businesses can display a “Green Seal” sticker promoting their plastic-free status.

The school plans to host a community Creek Sweep on NOAA’s National Beach Sweep Day. The students will create an art installation out of items that were collected during the sweeps to show how much plastic accumulates in the marine environment.

Burke High School, Charleston County
Oyster Reef Habitat Restoration 

High school students will partner with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) to restore local oyster reef habitats by planting cordgrass and installing oyster castles along Charleston’s shorelines. Students will harvest cordgrass seedlings from the marshes in December and cultivate them in an ebb and flow hydroponics system over the winter. They’ll also bag oysters over the winter. In the spring, SCDNR will supervise the planting of the cordgrass seedlings and the deployment of the oyster bags into the riverways to create new oyster reefs that will protect the cordgrass. The restoration of this habitat will improve water quality and support local fisheries and the economy.

The completion of this project will earn the school their NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador Certification. The school also plans to develop a documentary highlighting their successful project and share it both locally and as part of the New Tech Network of schools.

Cainhoy Elementary School, Berkeley County
Year of the Bird

In addition to producing harmful side effects to the environment, pesticides prevent insect-eating birds from visiting backyard gardens. This school-wide project will provide habitat for insects and birds and raise awareness about the environmental benefits of organic gardening. First graders will learn about the habitat of the American Kestrel and the impact of pesticides on the environment. They will plant the garden, build birdhouses, and hang bird feeders. One birdhouse will be equipped with a spy cam allowing students to watch the birds as they grow. The kindergarten classes will learn about the life cycle of birds by nurturing chicken eggs and checking the incubation process daily through an egg candler.

The school is partnering with the Center for the Birds of Prey in Awendaw, SC for this project thanks to a grant from BP, a corporate sponsor of both the school and the center. 

Jane Edwards Elementary School, Charleston County
In the Ground or Hydroponics

Students will compare the environmental benefits of hydroponic gardens to the school’s existing traditional in-ground gardens. Volunteers will help fourth through sixth grade students construct three hydroponic towers while the younger grades do the planting. Seedlings will be started in the same climate, inside on a plant cart, then transferred to the in-ground and hydroponic gardens. Students will compare differences in production between the two gardens.

The community has been very involved in this project. Two Master Gardeners have volunteered at the school, Lowe’s donated $750 worth of plants, and Edisto True Value and Donors Choose donated garden tools and supplies. Edisto Island Youth and Recreation performed heavy duty garden chores.

Orchard Park Elementary School, Oconee County
Pollinator Initiative

This Title One school will establish a pollinator garden to support an observation bee hive on campus and other local bee hives. Having a healthy bee population will benefit nearby agriculture as well as the apple orchards for which the school was named. Students will plant native trees, shrubs, and perennials provided by Lowe’s, PTA, Clemson University Extension, and the Seed Fairy, a Master Gardener project through the Extension office. The school beehive will be maintained with assistance from their Bee Mentor.

A fifth-grade student at the school recently became a Junior Master Beekeeper thanks to a scholarship. Sharing his beekeeping experiences has proven helpful in maintaining the health of the school’s hive. 

James Island Charter High School, Charleston County
Hydroponics and Spartina 

Earth Science students will restore a salt marsh ecosystem with Spartina alterniflora plants and artificial oyster reefs. Students will harvest Spartina seeds and learn how to use quadrats and transects to calculate species diversity. The seeds will be germinated hydroponically, and students will monitor water and air quality in the greenhouse. They’ll also complete an oyster bag dissection. In the spring, the students will participate in a Seeds to Shoreline planting and oyster reef restoration day. The planting location will be noted so that future students can see progress that has been made over time.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Seeds to Shoreline staff will help install the greenhouse. The greenhouse has rain gutters that can be attached to rain barrels and Clemson Extension staff will assist with the installation of the rain gutters. 

Meadow Glen Elementary School, Lexington County
Cleaning the Air 

The school will learn about the importance of clean air and how plants improve air quality inside and out. Two in-ground gardens will be replaced with a raised bed, including high quality soil, drip irrigation system, and a timer. The irrigation system and timer were provided through a grant by the Rawl family and support from Lexington County Soil and Water Conservation District. Students will learn about planting depth, spacing, soil quality, and water conservation as they plant, maintain, and harvest the garden. They will also pot air quality plants into recycled cafeteria cans they designed and decorated, to be distributed throughout the school.

Outreach for this project will take place through a kick off video and short, monthly commercials broadcast on the school news show, a “Green Steps” bulletin board outside the cafeteria, and the school website. Additionally, school staff participate in environmental education meetups, communicate with community partners including Harbor Freight, Walmart, and Double Tree Inn, and receive recognition for grants and school achievements. 

2017-2018 Champions of the Environment


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