Southern Among Schools Sharing Project R.E.A.C.H. Grant
Southern Local High School is among four rural schools collaborating in a special environmental education initiative through Project REACH.
The Southern Local, Lisbon, United Local and Crestview School Districts will split an estimated $68,830 for Project R.E.A.C.H. (Rural Education to Advance Clean Habitats), with $40,563 provided through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Columbiana County Educational Service Center giving a $28,267 match. Southern Local Schools Superintendent Tom Cunningham said CCESC officials wrote the grant application and SLHS will use its portion for cross-curricular projects to benefit primarily sophomore students.
“This is the first time we received the grant,” Cunningham said. “The whole idea is to have project-based learning where students are trying to solve problems or issues.”
According to the grant application, the project is critical because students lack conservation skills to be good stewards of water and changing water quality has caused the Hellbender Salamander to become an endangered species. Project R.E.A.C.H. allows students to study the impact of water quality on species habitat with environmental experts, plus it would provide professional development for teachers on applying STEM to water quality and habitat preservation. Teachers and students will conduct field studies to gather and analyze data and they will visit local waterways such as Highlandtown State Park, Beaver Creek State Park, the Beaver Creek Wildlife Center and local ponds and streams. Among the experts involved in the project are representatives of the OEPA, the Ohio State University Extension Office, SilverApple and the Columbiana County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Twenty middle school teachers from four schools will participate in professional development while 400 students will be guided on field trips by experts to gather and analyze data, form a hypothesis and consider alternatives. Students will also learn to collaborate in teams to develop solutions and alternatives that consider conservation practices affecting water quality and species habitat considering feasibility, economic impact and practicality. Their research and findings will be featured at a symposium that is open to parents and the public and will feature both oral and visual presentations.
Cunningham said Southern students will also incorporate math and English/Language Arts into their projects and hone their public speaking skills at the symposium.
“We’re really looking forward to the hands-on learning and being able to do activities that are cross-curricular. It will help us down the road to do more activities like that.”