EKU Recieves PRIDE Grant to Help with Outdoor Classroom and Wetlands at Local School Complex

Eastern Kentucky University recently received two grants from the Bluegrass PRIDE community grant program: one to establish an outdoor classroom and wetlands area to be shared by two local schools, among other provisions, and another to install five water bottle-filling stations on the Richmond campus.

An $8,835 grant will enable EKU biology and wildlife faculty and students to assist in the construction of a wetlands area and outdoor classroom facility on the shared campus of Glenn R. Marshall Elementary and B. Michael Caudill Middle schools in Richmond. Work will begin in April and continue through the spring and summer.

The wetlands are will be built by U.S. Forest Service biologist Tom Biebighauser and local contractor Farris Osborne. EKU biology and wildlife students and faculty, along with Marshall and Caudill students and teachers will assist by planting trees and seeds and spreading straw. The teaching pavilion will be built by Madison County Schools facilities personnel using materials purchased with the grant funds.

The EKU students will also assist by establishing a trail and cleaning some of the invasive honeysuckle bushes along the route. Students will also help with educational activities, collecting water quality data and teaching about wetlands, streams and wildlife.

Drs. Stephen Richter and David Brown, of the biological sciences faculty at EKU, are working with Christy Johnson and Laverne Lindquist, teachers at the elementary and middle schools, to develop programs focused on environmental education and use the grant-funded resources. Dr. Melinda Wilder, director of the university’s Department of Natural Areas, is helping to train teachers on how to use water quality kits.

Marshall and Caudill students have already begun to take field trips to the site, where they and their teachers have set up bluebird houses and are monitoring the nesting. They are also monitoring stream quality with kits borrowed from EKU Natural Areas. With kits purchased from the grant funds, the schools will be able to continue the monitoring of the stream and wetlands on their own. The schools will also use traps provided by EKU to sample insects and amphibians using the stream and wetlands.

The grant also provides for an expansion of the recycling program at Marshall Elementary and for the purchase of energy audit equipment to be used by Marshall students. The energy audit kits will allow students and their families to determine where waste is occurring in their households by measuring air flow, moisture and temperatures so homeowners can determine how to reduce electricity consumption.

According to Dr. David Brown of EKU’s biology faculty, EKU faculty and the schools’ teachers and principals “all basically had the same ideas independently. We happened to start communicating about it last spring and over the past year we worked together to develop the project and write the grant.” Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher at Marshall, played a “key” role.

“Students will get outdoors and learn about science in the field – by doing it,” Richter said. “They’ll also learn some important practices about energy efficiency and recycling. They will perform a home energy audit and explain to their parents what they’ve learned about energy efficiency. Hopefully, they will also take home knowledge and practice about recycling, stream quality and wetlands and spread it to family and friends.”

The other Bluegrass PRIDE grant, valued at $5,000, will allow EKU’s Office of Sustainability, headed by David Gore, to install water bottle-filling stations in five heavily used campus buildings as an environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative to the use of disposable plastic water bottles.

The stations will be installed over the next several months in the Student Services Building, New Science Building, Wallace Building, Powell Building and Combs (classroom) Building. In three cases, the stations will replace existing water fountains; in the other cases, they will be add-ons to fountains.

“We want to get away from the single-use plastic bottle,” Gore said.

Also, as a way to promote use of the new stations, hundreds of water bottles will be given away to EKU students. The stations will still allow users to get a drink of water the old-fashioned way.

Gore said he hopes to expand the program into other campus facilities.

The grants, just two of eight grants Bluegrass PRIDE announced in a ceremony on the Richmond campus on March 19, are made possible by funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission. Since 2010, PRIDE has awarded more than $200,000 in community grant funding to groups in Clark, Estill, Garrard, Lincoln, Madison, Montgomery, and Powell Counties. During this period, PRIDE also has awarded more than $80,000 in funding for environmental education projects in the same counties.

Published on March 23, 2012