Six eighth grade students at the Academy of Notre Dame (NDA) are making waves in a competition sponsored by the National Geographic Society.
Under the guidance of Middle School Science Teacher, Jamie Glennie, the students are taking part in the GeoChallenge, an annual themed and standards-based competition that challenges student groups in grades five through eight across the United States to develop a creative solution to a real-world problem. This year’s challenge is Tackling Plastic in our Waterways.
The self proclaimed “Trash Truckers” team consists of Meghna Sridhar of Nashua, NH, Yesenia Collins of Tyngsboro, Rachel Korwan of Westford, Annalise Stangroom of Lowell, Mya Shanahan of Dunstable, and Alexis Martineau of Merrimack, NH. The team meets once a week to develop a solution to prevent plastic items from reaching the ocean through local waterways, such as the Merrimack River.
"One of the greatest challenges around the Merrimack River is that the storm drains all have very large holes making it easy for debris to slip through and enter the water way," says Sridhar. "Our team's solution uses chicken wire under the drain as a sort of net that will collect the plastic and other debris before it reaches the river."
The team was also tasked with creating a source to sea map. The plan is to finalize an interactive story map to show how the Merrimack River water leads to the sea. In early November, the students participated in a YouTube presentation about designing the map where they were able to listen to other teams discuss their project and presented their own for others to hear. A representative from the National Geographic Society provided the team with positive constructive feedback.
"[The National Geographic Society representative] said our team's plan to build a storm drain solution was easy to implement and low cost, making the project a realistic solution that could really make a difference," reports Sridhar.
Once the team’s project is in place, the storm drains will be checked on a weekly basis to collect the debris caught with the chicken wire. The team will measure their results to track effectiveness.
The students have taken off running with their project. After receiving the go ahead from Academy President, John O’Brien, the team integrated their solution to two storm drains on campus to bring awareness to this type of pollution. One drain has been painted as a flower with the school's Hallmark #5 wording on each petal, "We embrace the gift of diversity," while the second one will feature a quote from the school's foundress, St. Julie Billiart.
Glennie has been pleased with how involved and dedicated each of the students have been in their project. "I am very impressed with the leadership and collaboration that this group has shown, as well as their committment to making a difference in our environment."
Their final project will also include a video that the students will produce as a way to demonstrate their project. All entries are due by the end of January. If the “Trash Trekkers” advance in the competition they will attend regionals in Chicopee at the end of March.