Initiatives for County students involve food production, garden revitalization, animal habitat
Students at five local education sites will receive hands-on environmental education this fall, thanks to financial support provided by the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District (RSWCD).
Twice a year, RSWCD offers Conservation Education Mini-Grants to support youth education initiatives at schools and education centers throughout Richland County. Projects, participating schools and their respective grant awards for the fall semester are:
Hoop House for Uhuru Organic Garden, UASC International Learning Center ($1,000)
The Uhuru Organic Garden provides a local laboratory to educate students about sustainable, small-scale food production. Students will help address local food insecurity through the center’s addition of a hoop house, which will extend the growing season and protect crops from the effects of weather and pests. Scholars will also receive entrepreneurship training in food and agribusiness.
“With the help of the RSWCD Conservation Mini-Grant, we are steps closer to addressing food insecurity in our communities through nature-made, nutritious foods,” said Lashia Washington, UASC assistant director and project lead.
Garden Revitalization, Lake Carolina Elementary School Lower Campus ($1,000)
Students will revitalize existing raised-bed gardens by adding soil amendments and planting herbs, perennials and shrubs to provide habitat for hummingbirds, butterflies and other beneficial insects.
“Children learn by doing,” said Shelley E. Mann, second-grade teacher and project lead. “This project will teach children not only the importance of natural resource conservation, but also life skills such as cooperation and problem-solving.”
Greenhouse Renovation, Dutch Fork High School ($500)
Students from the Earth Club, Young Women in Engineering, and Life Skills classes will work together to remove a greenhouse’s existing rock floor and replace it with a weed barrier and solid flooring. This project will make the greenhouse more accessible for students with limited mobility and increase planting and research opportunities. The project lead is David B. Kennedy, math teacher and Earth Club sponsor.
Butterfly Garden Enhancement, Center for Achievement ($500)
To upgrade the center’s butterfly garden, students will use Mini-Grant funding to add deer-resistant, pollinator-friendly plants such as milkweed, goldenrod, maypop and asters.
“The students love to visit the butterfly garden,” said STEM instructor and project lead Ginger Jones. “We use our garden to teach about abiotic and biotic factors, the food chain biodiversity, life cycles and the importance of conserving our natural resources.”
Home Sweet Home, Bookman Road Elementary School ($250)
Students will add nesting boxes to the school’s garden and nature trail, providing improved habitat for bats and butterflies.
Kindergarten teacher and project lead Kim Kuhn said adding the bat and butterfly houses will “afford our young learners the opportunity to have first-hand experience with helping these animals thrive and survive.”
Conservation Education: Get Involved
Applications for Conservation Mini-Grants are accepted twice per year, for spring and fall semesters. The next application deadline is Feb. 6, 2023.
Since the grant program’s launch in 2012, RSWCD has awarded 91 grants totaling $39,500. Much of the funding for the program comes from individual donors, businesses and community support through the Friends of the RSWCD program. Richland County supports the RSWCD’s work with staff and other resources.
“Our schoolchildren learn about the life benefits of plants and animals in their environments as they participate in hands-on activities supported by RSWCD Mini-Grants,” said Carol Kososki, a local donor and longtime chair of the Richland County Conservation Commission.
To apply for a Conservation Education Mini-Grant for your school or to learn how to support conservation education efforts through the Friends of the RSWCD, visit www.richlandcountysc.gov/rswcd.