A partnership with TenneSEA (Tennessee Student Environmental Alliance) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), will give fifth graders at Red Bank Elementary a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about science.
TDEC presented TenneSEA with a check for $78,500 today for its efforts to restore the Mountain Creek Watershed. The project includes developing an award program for watershed friendly homes and businesses, installing Green Infrastructure at a home and church, and working with partners to plan protection for the upper reaches of the Mountain Creek Watershed. The ultimate goal is a cleaner Mountain Creek and a more involved public who takes even better care of it. Education is essential in the process, both within the communities and through the schools.
TenneSEA is the local arm of Caribbean SEA, a Chattanooga-based environmental organization that collaborates with communities to teach children about their connection with nature and empower them to become environmental leaders who make changes from within. They are a grassroots organization working within communities to help improve the water. Their goal is to start with education and proceed to taking positive action for the watershed.
TenneSEA focuses on watershed and stormwater education and installation of Green Infrastructure as well as utilizing water monitoring volunteers, the community based Stream Team members, to keep watch on the quality of the streams. TenneSEA provides resources for educators, students in grades K-12, and also collaborates with universities. Caribbean SEA Executive Director Mary Beth Sutton loves working with the students at Red Bank. “After helping connect the teachers and students to the creek, the students now call it “their creek” and are passionate about taking care of it.”
The Red Bank Elementary School Stream Team is playing an integral role in the process. The fifth grade students had to apply for a position on the stream when they were fourth graders. While they have spent part of their time learning more about Mountain Creek, part of their job is battling stream bank erosion. The Stream Team learned the engineering design process with TenneSEA educators and have been challenged to imagine solutions to the stream bank erosion next to the school. As Ms. Sutton said, “Our Stream Team will present their ideas for stabilizing the stream bank to our TenneSEA team and our community volunteers from Propex, Wright Brothers and Chattanooga Engineering Group. Then they will learn how to take engineering design into action! We plan to have the stream bank stabilized before the end of the school year.”
Red Bank Elementary Principal Haley Brown is thrilled her students have the opportunity to take on such a worth-while cause, right in their own backyard. “At RBES, we strive to facilitate real-world learning for our students on a daily basis and to give them experiences that will allow them to find something in their life that they are passionate about. This project accomplishes both of these goals. Our STREAM Team students are committed to solving this real-world problem because it involves their creek and they are excited about the opportunity to present their solutions,” said Ms. Brown.
TDEC Deputy Commissioner Dr. Shari Meghreblian said this effort is just one example of the good work being done to improve this watershed and others across Tennessee. “We were very impressed with the Tennessee Student Alliance’s proposal to create a program that would award homeowners and business owners for their efforts to improve the Mountain Creek Watershed. Getting others involved expands our reach and helps improve watersheds across Tennessee,” said Dr. Meghreblian.
The project is slated for two years, with a program launch for the award system slated for late fall or winter. Integrating the creativity and intelligence of our young people with the actions led by community volunteers makes for a great way to solve our community’s problems.