Students help school solve erosion problem
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – When staff at Barnette Elementary School realized the school had an erosion issue, they didn’t turn to experts to solve the problem.
Instead, they enlisted the help of their own fifth-graders to find a solution. Students researched the problem – a steep hill facing the building caused dirt and debris to slide onto the school’s sidewalks during high rains and winds – and developed proposals they submitted to Barnette Elementary Principal Dianna Newman. The winning proposal will be chosen later in the summer and work will begin before the start of the upcoming school year.
“The problem is a combination of poor soil quality, too steep of a hill and a poor root system in the ground,” Jennifer
Purtill, the school’s media specialist, said. Purtill worked with project-based learning teacher Mandy Womack to carry out the project.
Students researched various erosion-control methods from improving the soil quality to planting trees inside the problematic area so roots could help keep the soil in place. Students had to consider the cost of each solution since the school would be working with a limited amount of money.
“The kids were talking through these different solutions, seeing why they would work and why they wouldn’t work,”
Womack said. “Each group had to find a way to present their findings. One group even made up a song and sang it as part of their presentation.”
Fifth-grader Michael Womack and his group opted to build a terraces to slow down the speed of rain flowing down the hill. To create terraces, the ground would be landscaped into stair-step-like structures. The group also wanted to plant shrubbery at the bottom of the hill to soak up the excess water.
Student Garrett Dean opted for a more simple solution. Garrett’s group wanted to improve the soil quality and planting trees through the area.
“We were thinking of growing trees and getting better soil,” Garrett said. “Good soil can basically soak up the water.”
Some of the solutions weren’t so practical, but teachers nonetheless helped students go back to the planning process and figure out why their ideas wouldn’t work, Womack said.
“We had ideas that ranged from everything to putting down Astroturf to ponds with fish and even a river,” Womack said. “It ran a huge range of ideas.”
While the winning fifth-graders won’t be able to stay at Barnette Elementary to see their solution carried out, they will get to see the results of their work when riding next door to Bradley Middle School, where they will attend sixth grade, Womack said.
But no matter which group wins, students said using concepts they learned in the classroom to solve a real-life problem has helped them to better understand the real life uses of geology.
“I learned the effects of erosion and how this knowledge will help when I get older,” Michael said. “If I have the same problem at my house I will know how to fix it.”
Want to help?
Barnette Elementary School needs volunteers to donate materials and labor after the winning proposal is chosen. Those interested in helping complete the project should call the school at 980-343-0372.