2021 - 2022 Champions of the Environment

Ballentine Elementary, Richland County
Learning Garden

Students at Ballentine Elementary School will learn about sustainable gardening practices by adding composting bins and rain barrels to their school garden.  Fruits, vegetables, native plants, and plants attractive to pollinators will also be added to the garden. Third grade classes will participate in weekly gardening lessons including research, planning, and creation of the garden. The garden will provide hands-on learning for science classes as they study plant cycles, photosynthesis, ecosystems, and environmental sustainability. Math classes can also utilize the garden to study area, volume, adding/subtracting, and planning. Independent gardening lessons will also be offered to other interested kindergarten to fifth grade classes.

Parent volunteers and community members will be recruited to assist in the development and maintenance of the learning garden. Information about the garden will be shared with the community through a student blog that will be delivered through the class website and social media.

Blue Ridge Elementary School, Oconee County
Giving it Back to the Earth

As part of Blue Ridge Elementary’s effort to become a Green Steps School, a student-led composting program will be implemented to enhance an existing garden. Fifth grade students will learn how compost provides nutrients, helps with water retention, reduces methane emissions, and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. An in-ground compost system and worm farm called Subpod will be used, allowing students to observe how the soil around the Subpod benefits from the system. Students will assist with construction of the Subpod, research the needs of a compost system, and aerate and feed the compost.

Students will also lead a school-wide campaign to educate the student body and the surrounding community about what can be composted, how to maintain the compost system, and compost’s benefits to the environment. Local garden clubs and community leaders will be invited to come observe how the Subpod system works. Information about composting will also be shared through local media sources.

Castle Heights Middle School, York County
Greenhouse Project

WSOC-TV News Story

Middle school students will help install a solar powered greenhouse with rooftop rainwater harvesting system, and a compost bin. The greenhouse will be constructed using over 200 plexiglass COVID shields that were previously used in classrooms. Repurposing these shields will help offset the cost of the project, allowing the school to purchase the solar panels and rain harvesting system. Up to 100 gallons per every inch of rain may be collected and stored through the greenhouse system. Utilizing a renewable energy source like solar power will help extend the growing season and reduce the carbon footprint. Produce grown in the greenhouse will be harvested and integrated into the cafeteria menu, and leftover food scraps will be added to the compost bin. A diverse group of students, including science classes, special education classes, and students from the large Native American Community, will use the greenhouse to learn about conservation, sustainable farming, ecology, nutrition, and commerce.

Outreach for this project will be achieved by getting parents involved in construction of the various systems, posting information at the local Tractor Supply and social media, and by selling seasonal plants to the community.

Cherokee Creek Boys School, Oconee County
Barton Creek Adopt-a-Stream

Barton Creek begins in Sumter National Forest, running through agricultural and recreational fields before flowing through Cherokee Creek Boys School property. This provides a hands-on opportunity for science classes of varying grade levels to learn about riparian zone habitat restoration and ecological succession. “Do not mow” boundaries will be established along the creek banks, creating a vegetative buffer. This habitat will provide shelter for small animals and will increase the number of wildflowers and pollinators. The vegetative buffer will also benefit water quality through improved biodiversity, stream bank erosion control, lower water temperature, increased dissolved oxygen, and reduced turbidity. Students will monitor water quality through bacterial, chemical, and macro-invertebrate indexing. Collected data will be entered into South Carolina’s Adopt-a-Stream program database and students will chart how the data changes over time.

The school will partner with the University of South Carolina’s Upstate Watershed Ecology Center to obtain a full monitoring kit, and they will work with United States Forest Service to obtain access to public land for possible additional water quality monitoring.

Walhalla High School, Oconee County
Butterfly Garden Expansion

Walhalla High School YouTube Video

Walhalla High is a certified Green Steps School. Students will model sustainability by increasing nesting and overwintering habitat for pollinators, increasing the awareness of the grounds crew that natural, ecological landscaping is acceptable, and working with the school district to decrease use of pesticides/herbicides on campus. Students will design, plant, and maintain the garden. They will clear all non-native plants and replace them with a large diversity of native species of pollinator larva host plants. Rock structures, snags, and brush/leaf piles will be added to provide shelter for pollinators. The garden will also be expanded to provide access for special needs students.

The garden’s position in front of a well trafficked highway provides many outreach opportunities. Visibility and signage will promote invertebrate conservation. Information about pollinator habitat will be shared with the student body through announcements, advertisements, and info graphics. In-person guided garden tours will be offered to students, staff, parents, and community members, as well as video tours on the school website. Clemson’s 4H extension office, Headlee Nursery, and Bells Creek Native Plants will volunteer their expertise, time, and material donations.

2019-2020 Champions of the Environment


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