Burke High School, James Island Charter High School, and Jane Edwards Elementary School are three of eight schools named “Champions of the Environment” by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for the 2018-2019 school year.
By earning this honor, staff and students received thousands of dollars in grant money for their schools, and are featured in this year’s Champions of the Environment commercial, which is airing this week on WCIV-TV (ABC News 4) in the Charleston area. You can also view the commercial on YouTube.
DHEC launched this program in 1993 to encourage students to identify ways they can protect the natural world and boost environmental awareness. This is the first time since the 2013-14 school year that a Charleston County School District school was named a “Champion of the Environment” by DHEC; Jane Edwards and West Ashley High School both earned the honor that school year (West Ashley was also a “Champion of the Environment” in the 2011-2012 school year).
“This year, more than half of our winners came from the Lowcountry, with three in particular coming from within CCSD,” said Amanda Ley, DHEC’s coordinator for the Champions of the Environment program. “We hope these wonderful projects inspire the students to embrace environmental stewardship and work to make a lasting impact in their communities.”
Burke High School – Oyster Reef Habitat Restoration
Students partnered 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 harvested cordgrass seedlings from the marshes in December and cultivated them in an “ebb-and-flow” hydroponics system over the winter. They also bagged oysters over the winter. This spring, SCDNR will supervise the planting of the cordgrass seedlings and the deployment of the oyster bags into the rivers 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 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 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.
James Island Charter High School – Hydroponics and Spartina
Earth Science students worked on restoring a salt marsh ecosystem with Spartina alterniflora plants and artificial oyster reefs. Students harvested Spartina seeds (which were germinated hydroponically) and monitored water and air quality in the greenhouse. They also completed 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. SCDNR and Seeds to Shoreline staff helped construct the greenhouse, and Clemson Extension staff installed rain gutters onto the greenhouse and connected them to rain barrels.
Jane Edwards Elementary School – In the Ground or Hydroponics
Students are comparing the environmental benefits of hydroponic gardens to the school’s existing traditional in-ground gardens. Volunteers helped sixth-grade students build three hydroponic towers, and eventually, seeds will be planted inside a plant cart. The seedlings will start in the same climate, then they will be transferred to either in-ground or hydroponic gardens. Students will compare the 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.
To learn more about the individual projects that led to the schools receiving this honor, contact Peter Locher at Burke at [email protected], Tracy Lyles at James Island Charter at [email protected], or Paula Burns at Jane Edwards at [email protected]
For more information about DHEC’s Champions of the Environment initiative, visit their website. Champions of the Environment is sponsored by Dominion Energy, International Paper, and DHEC.