Hands-on environmentalism

Club: A group of Lime Kiln Middle School pupils is working to protect back yards, the bay and the planet.


April 07, 2004|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

To the pupils in the Lime Kiln Middle School environmental club, it is not just a school project. They have big plans to save the world - or at least their own back yards.

Their efforts to protect the environment from the changes they are seeing in their ever-growing communities include plans to grow grass that will be planted near a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay to help keep the waterway clean, construct a butterfly garden at the school, establish a "no-mow" zone on school property and undertake stream studies.

"We can build new houses and buy new cars, but the environment is the only one we have," said Aminah Zaghab, an eighth-grader at the school in Fulton. "The land and the water are all we have, so we need to do a good job of keeping them." Aminah, 14, is president of the newly formed environmental group, made up of 15 pupils in grades six, seven and eight.

The club is sponsored by the school's Gifted and Talented Program but is open to all pupils, said Edna Turner, a teacher in the program and adviser to the club. Two parent volunteers - Holly Vogel, a plant scientist, and Sally Byrne, a master gardener - also assist the group.

The club meets twice a week and has a five-year plan to complete several projects that will help the environment.

The project that is consuming much of the club's energy these days involves developing a rain garden that will be built on school grounds.

A rain garden is a landscaped area that is slightly sunken to help collect and soak up rain water instead of letting it run off into the drainage system.

The Prince George's County Department of Resources has successfully used rain gardens for storm-water management at a housing development, according to the proposal for the rain garden at Lime Kiln.

At the school, the pupils are researching plants and shrubs to be used in their rain garden, which will be approximately 7 feet by 25 feet, and 1 1/2 feet deep. Although the cost for the project has not been determined, the club has received about $2,500 from the Howard County Schools Innovative Grant program and the Audubon Society to help pay for the garden, according to Turner.

The group hopes to start building the rain garden this summer.

The club, which was formed in September, came to fruition after pupils began asking questions about their surroundings, Turner said.

"The children were concerned about their community changing with new residential and commercial developments," she said. "They also had questions about the smell from the turkey farm near the school."

After the club began meeting, the pupils were given the task of checking the health of their home back yards.

"We did a study to see how well our yards were doing, and we were also checking to see if we saw wildlife around. [If we did], it meant there was less pollution in the area," said Colleen Collins, a seventh-grader.

Richard Stellabuto, also a seventh-grader, whose family recently purchased a home, said his yard report was "good."

"We don't cut our grass a lot, and we have good water runoff," he said.

Principal Patrick Saunderson praised the club's efforts. "It's a great opportunity to make sure our environment is preserved," he said.

Turner said the club hopes to develop a culture of environmental awareness at the school and in the community.

"We want the entire community, every member of the staff and parents to understand that whatever we do impacts our environment," she said.

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