Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013

A.J. Whittenberg, Gateway Elementary Schools Named Champions of the Environment

Students at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary are constructing a greenhouse using recycled two-liter plastic bottles.
Students at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary are constructing a greenhouse using recycled two-liter plastic bottles.

A.J. Whittenberg and Gateway Elementary Schools have been selected Champions of the Environment by the SC Department of Environmental Control (SCDHEC). The awards are presented annually to Champion schools for their outstanding environmental efforts.

Students and adult volunteers at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School are constructing a greenhouse using recycled two-liter plastic bottles. The roof is designed so that rainwater is filtered into a series of rain barrels, reducing storm water runoff and nonpoint source pollution, and encouraging water conservation. The water collected in the rain barrels will be used to irrigate plants in the garden and seedlings grown in the greenhouse.

Students and staff at Gateway Elementary are restoring and maintaining the habitat of the endangered bunched arrowhead.
Students and staff at Gateway Elementary are restoring and maintaining the habitat of the endangered bunched arrowhead.

The greenhouse will serve as an outdoor classroom where students in multiple grades can study plant life cycles, analyze water quality, and learn first-hand about waste reduction and reuse.  The City of Greenville is partnering with A.J. Whittenberg through the Connections for Sustainability Project. A Livability Educator works with students to create outreach materials about the project that will be available online and signage that will be located next to the greenhouse.

Students and staff at Gateway Elementary School are restoring and maintaining the habitat of the bunched arrowhead, a wetland-dependent plant which is currently endangered by storm water runoff issues on the school's property. The storm water runoff is being channeled instead to a rain garden constructed with native plants. Students are learning what plants and planting mediums work best to infiltrate storm water. A project workbook and informational kiosk will educate students and the community about the importance of protecting this federally listed endangered plant and its habitat.

The South Carolina Native Plant Society and Furman University are working closely with Gateway Elementary to preserve the bunched arrowhead and the natural area that surrounds it at the school.

As Champions of the Environment, each school received $2,000 and publicity including a posting on the Champions Web site and a TV commercial about the project that will air on WIS-TV, Columbia.


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