RSWCD awards 5 grants to support students’ conservation initiatives

March 8, 2023

Hydroponics, school gardens, composting among grant-funded projects

Students in five Richland County schools and education sites will take part in hands-on environmental education this spring, thanks to Conservation Education Mini-Grants provided by the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District (RSWCD).

Twice a year, RSWCD offers the Mini-Grants to support youth education initiatives at schools and education sites throughout the County. Projects, participating schools and their respective grant awards for the spring semester are:

Farmstand Hydroponics Growing System, A.C. Moore Elementary School ($1,000)

Students will produce seasonal fruits and vegetables in their classroom using hydroponics, or the soilless cultivation of plants.

Learning about fruit and vegetable production can help “counteract the early onset of health challenges associated with sedentary lifestyles, poor eating habits and lack of contact with nature,” said Robin Stancik, project lead and pre-K teacher.

Students at A.C. Moore Elementary and Webber Elementary School will use Conservation Education Mini-Grant funds to add Farmstand hydroponics growing systems to their classrooms for fruit and vegetable production.

Farmstand Hydroponics Growing System, Webber Elementary School ($1,000)

Members of Webber Elementary’s Garden Club will also manage a system to produce fruits and vegetables hydroponically.

Garden Club members will share their harvest and conduct taste tests with students in other classes. The hydroponics garden will “promote hands-on and multi-sensory learning,” said Adela Suciu, project lead and resource teacher.

Composting Project, Spring Valley High School ($750)

Members of Spring Valley’s Adopt-a-Stream and Gardening clubs will develop a school composting initiative to reduce landfill trash and turn food waste into a valuable soil amendment.

“Environmental activities have been shown to develop critical thinking skills, enhance student learning about nature and encourage students to be outdoors,” said Ramona Saracila, teacher and project lead. “This project … will teach students important conservation skills.”

HYPE Nature Club Outdoor STEM Classes, Rosewood Community Orchard by Akoma Cares ($500)

Students in Akoma Cares’ HYPE (Helping Young People Explore) Nature Club will meet biweekly at the orchard to explore outdoor science, technology, engineering and math. Along with maintaining the orchard, students will establish and maintain a HYPE Nature Club garden.

Christian Oware, director of operations, will lead the project. Akoma Cares is a 501(c)3 organization that provides educational and enrichment opportunities for home-schooling students through the Akoma Cares Hybrid Learning Center.

Nature Club School Garden, PACE Academy ($500)

Students in the PACE Academy Nature Club plan to expand the school’s garden using sustainable, organic practices such as pollinator-friendly landscaping, native plants, rain barrels and more.

“We hope to provide opportunities for arts, math, science and ELA (English language arts) integration in our gardening project,” said project lead and Nature Club sponsor Amie Lober. “This garden will be not just a garden but an outdoor classroom.”

Students at PACE Academy will expand their school garden using sustainable, organic practices such as pollinator-friendly landscaping, native plants and rain barrels.

Conservation Education Mini-Grants

Since the launch of the Conservation Education Mini-Grant program in 2012, RSWCD has awarded 96 grants totaling $43,300. Much of the program’s funding comes from individual donors, businesses and community support through the Friends of RSWCD.

“Environmental education is the backbone of the district’s work,” said RSWCD commissioner Jeff Laney, a member of the Friends of RSWCD. “In order to promote the wise use of natural resources, we must first help educate our youth about their importance. Our mini-grants are a critical part of making that happen.”

RSWCD promotes the wise use and care of natural resources, with a focus on soil and water, for long-term sustainability in a changing environment. Richland County supports RSWCD’s work with staff and other resources. To learn more about the RSWCD’s programs or how to support conservation education efforts through the Friends of RSWCD program, visit