Schools win eco-friendly challenge

CHARLOTTE – Whitewater Middle School and River Oaks Academy are committed to help the environment.

The two schools were recognized by the Catawba River District in May for making their buildings, as well as students and staff, more environmentally friendly. The river organization challenged six schools to become more kind to the environment.

Hundreds of students, teachers and volunteers labored to devise plans, take measurements, record data and sort garbage.

• Whitewater Middle School sixth-graders won with their focus on ozone awareness and, through an ozone garden, this harmful gas’s connection to automobiles, summer heat and asthma.

• River Oaks Academy third- and fourth-graders took first place among four elementary schools for their school-wide lights-out campaign to conserve electricity.

“It was difficult for the judging team to choose one winner for each category, as each of the participating schools demonstrated great learning and enthusiasm for science,” said Cynthia Klemmer, the River District’s director of STEM education.

Other schools that participated:

• Mountain Island Charter School – second place, middle schools – reducing disposable plastic in lunchtime garbage

• Catawba Heights Elementary School – second place, elementary schools – composting by second-graders to reduce waste sent to landfills

• Ida Rankin Elementary School – honorable mention, elementary schools – composting by third-graders, with the help of bokashi (fermentation)

• Whitewater Academy – honorable mention, elementary schools – composting schoolwide, with the help of vermiculture (red wiggler worms)

The regional Eco-Footprint Challenge, developed by the Catawba River District and funded by Piedmont Natural Gas, seeks to connect relevant and engaging hands-on learning with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.

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