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When some science-minded students at St. Ursula Academy were looking for a project that would benefit the environment, they needed look no farther than their own backyard.
Members of the core team of the school’s STEM Club — that’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — installed a modified rain garden behind the school to act as a natural filter for water running off some 30,000 square feet of parking lot.
Rocks and grasses filter out the salt, oil, and fertilizer contained in runoff that previously drained into a creek that feeds into the Ottawa River, which in turn flows into Lake Erie.
“It may not be much to look at, but we got a lot of thumbs up from teachers who said there has been much less standing water and the smell is better,” said Caroline Lewandowski, a senior from Toledo.
The girls’ project, completed this fall, recently garnered a $10,000 award from the Lexus Eco Challenge. St. Ursula, a private, all-girls high school, was one of 10 high schools and six middle schools nationwide to receive the award, $7,000 of which will go to the nine team members to use for STEM-related projects or for college, $2,000 to the school, and $1,000 to the STEM Club.
Jasmine Arndt, a senior from Toledo, said the club always looks for ways to challenge its members, most of whom plan careers in science and engineering. Neera Martin, a senior from Toledo, came across the Lexus Eco Challenge online last summer, and the club’s core team started working on it when school started in August.
Beatrice Thaman, a junior from Ottawa Hills, said she liked the way the project focused on community.
“The challenge was to find a way to create a project that would positively impact our community,” she said, explaining that she and her classmates considered the city of Toledo and the Great Lakes region, but in the end decided to focus on the smaller community they’re all part of.
“All of us are connected to St. Ursula even if we live in different places,” she said.
The students worked with the city of Toledo’s environmental department, which provided guidance and donated native grasses for the project.
Miss Lewandowski said the team dug out polluted soil from the site before installing layers of rock and planting the grasses. Along the way, they researched indigenous plants and learned how to test water in the Maumee River.
“I think the real message we want to get out is that the students here are willing and able and excited to give back to their community and the environment,” said Jackie Kane, adviser to the STEM Club and science department chairman at St. Ursula. “They can and they did.”
Other team members were: Alyssa Brown, a junior from Petersburg, Mich.; Charese Foster, a senior from Toledo; Mattison Gibson, a junior from Genoa; Maddie Krell, a senior from Toledo, and Emily Warner, a senior from Toledo.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.