Students at Kent School and Radcliffe Creek School gathered at Town Hall Tuesday, May 28, to show projects created as part of a year-long study of the ecology of Radcliffe Creek. All were “Action Projects” in which the students first studied the subject then came up with ideas of how they could make a difference for a cleaner, better environment.
The projects are the end results of a class created by Sultana Education Foundation, enlisting some 200 seventh-grade students at county schools. Radcliffe Creek runs along the north and west edges of Chestertown, entering the Chester River just downstream from the armory.
Sultana’s Holt Education Director, Beth Lenker, said the students’ work was their response to the question, “What can we do?” at the end of the course, which included classroom work along with field trips along the creek. Each of the projects has the overall goal of helping to clean up the creek, the Chester River, and the Chesapeake Bay, Lenker said.
Projects covered a range from building nesting boxes for wood ducks, which will be installed along the course of the stream; trying to persuade local restaurants to discontinue using plastic straws; and erecting a sign in Gateway Park, which borders the stream where it crosses High Street, to make visitors aware of the need to protect the environment. One group of students created stencils to paint signs at storm drains, to remind everyone that they empty into the river, while others created a game to make younger students aware of some of the wildlife that inhabits the creek. And still another group created a plan to completely eliminate plastic bags from the local community.
Sultana instructors worked with teachers Hannah Richardson of Kent School, Heidi Usilton of Radcliffe Creek School, and Karen Carty and Katie Hughs of Kent County Middle School. The project came together about two years ago after Sultana received a grant for it, and the teachers put together an outline for the course. Lessons learned this year will be applied to refining and adjusting the course for next year, Lenker said.
Students from Radcliffe Creek School who worked on a storm drain project said that there are three drains on their campus plus many more around town that drain directly into Radcliffe Creek. Their project will stencil messages on or near the drains that will inform people and hopefully reduce the amount of pollutants that end up in the river and from there into the bay. One stencil design states “No Waste — Drains to River”.
Students in Kent School’s ExStrawdinary Project went to restaurants and other businesses that sell beverages and gave them information on the problems caused by plastics in general and plastic straws specifically. They then presented the advantages of the four main alternative materials that straws can be made from–paper, metal, corn, and bamboo. They asked the business to make a pledge to investigate these alternatives to plastic straws and then to seriously consider switching to one of them. They displayed a long list of local businesses that made the pledge. (See the list below in the Photo Gallery .)
Students in a Rain Garden project did some research and found that planting vegetation with deeper roots can help a nearby river by absorbing more water and holding more soil. That helps reduce both erosion and pollution. The students then selected ten such plants—including black-eyed Susans and Echinacea–that can grow well in our area to plant along the creek. Seventh-grader Parker Severs said that she intends to plant some this summer in her own yard at home near low-lying spots that tend to collect water. Reducing small stagnant pools of water will also help reduce the number of mosquitoes—a real bonus!
“It’s cool how engaged the students are in putting together the actions projects,” Lenker said. She said the projects could make a tangible difference in the health of Radcliffe Creek with ripple effects for both the Chester River and the Chesapeake Bay. But it’s most important that the students are learning that they can–as individuals or as a group–make a real difference in real problems.
Students from Kent County Middle School are scheduled to show their projects at the school this Thursday, June 6. Those projects will be featured in a future Spy article.
** Photo Gallery **