The Richmond Register

Local News

April 16, 2012

What you can’t find in a text book

Students, teachers, scientists help bring outdoor classroom, wetlands to life

RICHMOND — Imagine reading a text book about a salamander in its natural habitat and then stepping outside to actually see a salamander in its natural habitat.

Students at Glenn Marshall Elementary and B. Michael Caudill Middle schools are aiding in the construction of a wetland near the school buildings that will soon be the new home to many plants and organisms.

Through the vision of two science teachers and two Eastern Kentucky University biology professors, the wetland project broke ground Friday.

“I’m trying to get my students to fall in love with science, but they have to get outside and immerse themselves in it,” said fourth grade science teacher Christy Johnson.

Johnson, along with middle school science teacher Laverne Lindquist and biology professors Drs. David Brown and Stephen Richter, collaborated on a proposal and were awarded an $8,600 Bluegrass PRIDE grant for an outdoor classroom.

The grant will fund a pavilion, walking paths, recycling bins and energy audit kits that students can take home and use to measure the energy efficiency of their homes, Brown said.

The $8,600 was matched by the Sheltowee Environmental Education Coalition funded by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Partners program to build the wetland.

 “This will be a place where teachers can bring their classes to do water quality testing, count birds and study plants and organism,” Brown said.

He and Richter both have children who attend Glenn Marshall Elementary.

“We’d love to see a lot of these kids at EKU someday with this kind of background in environmental science,” he said.

Richter said the goal for the wetland is to get plants and algae to grow, which attracts snails and insects.

“That provides food for salamanders and frogs, which provides food for snakes and birds, then turtles and small mammals,” he said. “Over the next 10 years or so, we should have a well established habitat.”

The wetland is being constructed in a dip of the gently rolling hills behind the elementary school.

The site is just a few minute walk from the schools, over the hill from a tributary of Otter Creek — all located on three acres of school property.

All day Friday, groups of students from both schools trekked down the makeshift path to work on each phase of the construction. Students raked soil, cleared rocks and laid PVC liner.

Students secured the liner with stakes in areas marked by Tom Biebighauser, a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service who is directing the wetland project.

Biebighauser used a surveying level, a tool used to measure the shape and depth of the wetland, to make sure each stake was positioned correctly.

Initially, the top soil was pulled off and set aside with an excavator operated by Farris Osborne of Richmond, who helped construct the Kirksville wetland in 2009. Osborne then replaced the soil to secure the liner, which helps retain water and keep the wetland wet.

The soil is covered with straw to prevent erosion and branches are added to provide perches for the small creatures that will eventually live there.

Then they sit back and wait for rain to do its job, Brown said.

Naturally, there will be wet and dry spells where the depth of the water in the very center of the wetland could range from 16 to 26 inches deep, he said.

Historically, settlers of America saw wetlands as a nuisance and the consensus was to avoid or drain “these foul breeding grounds,” according to the website for the Center for Wetlands and Stream Restoration in Morehead, where Biebighauser works.

 But current research shows that wetlands serve as important areas for biodiversity, water reclamation, and soil conservation, the website states.

According to the EPA, wetlands are second only to the ocean in the number of organisms inhabiting them.

 Biebighauser has traveled the states to oversee several similar projects, including wetland construction at Kirksville Elementary and EKU.

His book, “Wetland Restoration and Construction: A Technical Guide” is derived from his work in restoring and building wetlands and to promote the ecosystems that thrive in them.

School administrators often are reluctant to authorize the installation of wetlands, he wrote, because they view them as a breeding ground for disease-carrying, pesky mosquitoes that could be a threat or annoyance to children, teachers, staff and parents.

But, contrary to common belief, building a wetland can actually lower mosquito numbers. That is because “swallows, dragonflies, frogs and toads will prey on adult mosquitoes during the day with bats taking over at night,” he said.

Students, teachers and volunteers will continue to work on eliminating invasive species of plants in the area such as bush honeysuckle and cattails, said Richter.

And because the schools — located off the Robert Martin Bypass — are surrounded by cattle pastures and suburban areas, the wetland will provide a new habitat for native organisms, he said.

Ultimately, Johnson wants her students to gain a sense of responsibility for the environment by maintaining the wetland and studying the life forms which it will inhabit.

“This experience will show students the impact they have on their environment and the importance of their role in protecting it,” she said.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, ext. 6696.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • May 30 last school day for students

    After 16 snows days and two weather delays this winter, the Madison County School Board decided Thursday to end the school year on Friday, May 30.

    April 19, 2014

  • 4-19 TechExtra1.jpg Students showcase projects in Technology Extravaganza

    Madison County School students showed off just how tech savvy they can be during the district’s sixth annual Technology Extravaganza on Thursday at Madison Central High School. After the showcase, more than 350 students were honored for their work.

    April 19, 2014 7 Photos

  • 4-19 SchoolBoardJesseWard.jpg Ward honored for service; tech center named after him

    Retired Madison County educator Jesse Ward was recognized Thursday for his many years of service. To honor him, Superintendent Elmer Thomas announced the board’s decision to rename the district’s technology training center on North Second Street in Richmond the Jesse P. Ward Technology and Training Center.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-19 Brian Smith.jpg Berea man indicted on 24 child porn counts

    A Madison grand jury has indicted a Berea man on 24 counts related to child pornography.

    Brian J. Smith, 26, is charged with four counts of distribution and 20 counts of possession of matter portraying sexual performances by a minor.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-19 Gregory Powell.jpg Police apprehend burglary suspect

    An observant witness was able to help Richmond police catch a burglary suspect shortly after a break-in Thursday afternoon on Savanna Drive off Berea Road.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-18 PackTrack1a.jpg Walkers, runners of every age ‘Pack the Track’

    Waco Elementary and Model Laboratory schools students raised more than $8,000 (and counting) for the annual Pack the Track event at Eastern Kentucky University’s Tom Samuels Track Thursday, said Kim DeCoste of the Madison County Diabetes Coalition.

    April 18, 2014 14 Photos

  • 4-18 George WilliamsWEB.jpg Suicide attempt fatal for inmate

    A Todd County man died Tuesday at a Lexington hospital following a suicide attempt at the Madison County Detention Center, according to Madison and Fayette county officials.
    George Kenneth Williams, 50, of Allensville, was transported Monday afternoon by Madison County EMS to Baptist Health Richmond, according to EMS Director Jimmy Cornelison. He was then transferred to Baptist Health in Lexington where he died Tuesday, according to the Fayette County Coroner’s Office.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • CCDW instructor indicted on charges of failing to provide training

    A Madison County grand jury has indicted a carry-concealed weapons permit instructor on charges he falsely claimed to have provided instruction to one person for a CCDW permit and provided incomplete training to three others.
    Christopher D. Fins was indicted April 9 on one count of CCDW instructor not providing firearms training and three counts of providing incomplete firearms training.
    Fins faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of all four felony charges.

    April 17, 2014

  • EKU dorm sprinklers may have been activated maliciously

    Fire-suppression sprinklers went off about 2:30 a.m. Thursday in Eastern Kentucky University’s Martin Hall dormitory, prompting its evacuation.
    Fluctuating pressure then caused a campus water main to break, according to EKU spokesperson Mark Whitt.
    The cause is uncertain, but university officials are investigating to determine if the sprinklers were activated maliciously, Whitt said.
    The residence hall houses 260 students who were placed in other university housing or stayed with friends. All were able to move back in later in the day, he said.

    April 17, 2014

  • Sixth person charged in motel meth bust

    A sixth person has been charged in connection with a methamphetamine-making operation discovered last week at the Bel Air Motel in Richmond.
    Roger M. Million, 24, Moberly Road, was charged Wednesday with manufacturing methamphetamine.

    April 17, 2014

AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should the Richmond City Commission stop rezoning property to allow construction of apartments?

Yes.
No
     View Results