Polk County students at 11 schools will study the issues surrounding our freshwater resources thanks to Splash! school grants from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
The Polk County awardees are:
· Herbert Maysonet, Auburndale High, was awarded $2,930. Students will learn to collect and test water samples from local ponds. They will explore various pollutants and learn how water is treated to eliminate these pollutants before human use.
· Jessica Fredricks, Bethune Academy, was awarded $2,860. Students will learn about aquifers and the importance of protecting and conserving our water supply. They will visit Engstrom Lake to perform water quality tests and collect aquatic species to examine. Students will also create a school-wide water conservation campaign.
· Natalie Holland, Chain of Lakes Elementary, was awarded $1,602. Students will learn the importance of protecting and conserving freshwater through various classroom activities. Students will read an assortment of water-related books and prepare skits to perform for the school. Students will also share conservation tips with their families.
· Melanie Tucker, Daniel Jenkins Academy, was awarded $1,915. Students will learn the connection between land and water and how human actions affect water quality. They will determine the health of local water bodies through water testing and implement a plan to reduce stormwater runoff from the school’s campus.
· Phyllis Harris, Fort Meade Middle, was awarded $2,000. While exploring various habitats at Crystal Springs Preserve, students will collect and test water samples. Students will also investigate species living in the Hillsborough River.
· Angela Munoz, Lakeland High, was awarded $2,000. Students will visit Crystal Springs Preserve and Lake Hollingsworth to test water quality and compare a lake to a spring. Students will learn how pollution affects water quality and the surrounding ecosystems and will then educate others through presentations, signs and brochures.
· Melissa Kelly, Polk Avenue Elementary, was awarded $2,990. Students will attend hands-on field trips to learn about freshwater resources and habitats. Through these trips students will learn the importance of protecting water resources and local watersheds.
· Debra Porter, Southwest Middle, was awarded $1,333. Students will participate in two field days at Circle B Bar Reserve learning about the Peace River watershed, food chains, water quality, land management techniques and invasive species, and habitat restoration. Students will also visit Lake Beulah and compare the water quality and species found with that of Circle B.
· Karen Horsting, Southwest Middle, was awarded $851. Students will learn about karst topography and groundwater on a field trip to Gator Sink. At Lake Hunter, students will learn about native and non-native flora and fauna and aquatic species. Students will also visit a reclaimed water facility to learn how water is purified and reused.
· Tracy Fender, Tenoroc Senior High, was awarded $1,820. Students will visit Crystal Springs Preserve to learn about springs and their connection to the aquifer. Students will test water quality and gather biological samples to study the health of the Hillsborough River and the surrounding watershed.
· Dawn Coatney, Westwood Middle, was awarded $2,537. Students will plant a hydroponic garden and document water usage. They will compare water used in the hydroponic garden to traditional gardening methods and begin to understand why water conservation is important.
· Mary St. Denis, Winter Haven High, was awarded $1,998. Students will test water quality and collect aquatic species at their school’s campus, Lake Otis in Winter Haven and Crystal Springs Preserve. Students will learn how humans impact the health of water and the surrounding habitats.
The goal of the Splash! school grant program is to provide teachers with funding to enhance student knowledge of topics that meet the District’s core mission and teach students about their local watersheds, water conservation, quality and supply. Splash! school grants provide up to $3,000 per school on a reimbursement basis and are available to public school teachers.
Melissa Gulvin, the District’s K-12 education coordinator, said the grant program is important because Splash! Grants provide funding teachers may not otherwise have to create water-resources programs specific to their students.
“For instance, if a school’s campus is near a local water body, students may conduct hands-on water testing and clean-ups while learning how their actions affect the health of that local water body and the surrounding watershed,” she said.
This year, 94 Splash! grants were awarded across the District’s 16-county region to educate students on water resources. Past Splash! grant projects include student monitoring of local water quality, environmental field studies and school or community outreach campaigns designed to encourage water conservation.
In addition to Splash! grant funding, the District offers free teacher professional development workshops and curriculum materials. The publications are correlated to Florida’s Next Generation Sunshine State Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards and can be ordered on the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/publications/.