Kids love the outdoors and nowhere can you see that better than in Clean Creek Campus. The program integrates STEM learning and is aligned with academic standards, but most importantly it engages students in a fun, interactive way to learn about factors affecting our local watersheds and take action to restore our watersheds. This year, 2,400 students from 26 schools dedicated 4,200 hours of service to complete 35 service projects. Students could be found restoring creeks, distributing native seedballs, cleaning their campuses, and building gardens. Read on to dive into the campus by campus adventure.
Pitching in for Restoration
The winner of last year’s Bleed Orange Live Green award, Sim Elementary School, is continuing their commitment to service. Sim’s students helped restore their local community park by spreading seed balls in the grow zone around the creek in order to increase the wildflower species found in the area. After mixing ingredients to make seed balls, students with mud-caked hands competed to see who could throw them the farthest. Throwing seed balls makes life a little sweeter and spaces the seeds, so they have optimal growing conditions. Besides the fun, students gained an understanding of how restoration can make a positive impact on the environment and their moods!
Renewal of the Environment and Soul
Restoration can mean many things. Here at Keep Austin Beautiful we often refer to restoration in an environmental context – making an ecosystem healthier and more beautiful. Restoration can aggregate into something much greater – determination, commitment, and environmental renewal can restore the pride of a neighborhood. Take Cook Elementary as an example: students and teachers geared up with litter grabbers and trash bags and scrubbed away until their neighborhood shined almost as bright as their pride-filled smiles.
STEMing Garden Growth
Things don’t always go as planned in the garden; tools break, seeds wash away, and resources are sometimes limited. After learning about soils, watersheds, and gardening, students at Harmony Science planted native and edible plants. Once finished students were faced with an unusable hose and some very thirsty plants. Situations like this can be a problem or an opportunity depending on your perspective—unfazed, the students unanimously chose to confront the challenge. They flipped an orange traffic cone upside-down and presented it as a reflective watering can. Gardening requires innovation and creatively engineered solutions, which stretches our students’ creativity and problem solving skills. We love gardening, but we love plant STEM education even more.
Taming Summer Weeds
As teachers and students wind down for summer break and school doors close, school gardens are typically left to fend for themselves. By the time school revs up in the fall, students and teachers usually walk into a garden overgrown with Bermuda grass and heat-loving weeds. This year, the students and community at Langford Elementary partnered with Keep Austin Beautiful to take the bull thistle by the horns. Tireless weeding transformed the space from a jungle of weeds to a functioning garden in a matter of three weeks. Fifth graders were eager to revisit the garden and check on their previous year’s crop. Gardening with students in consecutive years is a wonderful thing for us and very clearly a memorable thing for them. While reviewing the lessons from their fourth grade year they shared stories of real life connections to watersheds and proved that their gardening foundation was as solid as summer baked earth.
The Plants Days of Summer
Summer is finally here. Before we grab an ice cream cone and head for the pool, we must tend to our plants, especially when the temperatures rise. That’s why students and teachers at Casey Elementary thought ahead. They realized that by planting Texas natives, their garden would be practically self-sustaining by the time the heat waves arrived. While students and teachers are off enjoying a bit of relaxation, their raised bed native garden is exploding with life. Some might call that lazy gardening, but we call that strategic gardening – those native plants will be just fine as we keep to the shade and sip our lemonade.
An IDEA to Grown On
After a service project, students usually thank us with a smile, a hug and a simple but genuine “thank you.” The sixth grade students at IDEA Allan did this and then some. They showed their gratitude with hand drawn pictures and heart felt letters. The letters and pictures are a reminder of how much information and positivity students absorb from service projects. Besides all of the environmental facts they retained, the letters captured student ah-ha moments of how they can individually help care for the environment and how they are motivated to continue interacting with their environment in positive ways.
We couldn’t break for summer on a better note. We walk away from a busy school year optimistic of how much students have learned (and retained) and ready for a little rest and relaxation of our own to gear up for school scheduling in August – stay tuned!
Much gratitude to our sponsors who make Clean Creek Campus possible.