With a passion for science and the environment around them, students from Bernice Ayer Middle School presented their findings from a yearlong project to parents on Wednesday afternoon, May 31.
The group, comprising 18 students, had served as the second installment of the Stormwater Quality Leadership Program at BAMS, sponsored by water education organization Poseidon Education and sixth-grade science teacher Amy Wilson.
Since Wilson began teaching at the school during the 2021-2022 school year, after spending four years with Poseidon, she’s led the extracurricular program that Orange County Public Works and the cooperative H2OC Stormwater Program funds.
Over the course of the year, the sixth- and seventh-grade students learned about stormwater, storm drains, watersheds, safety training, catch basins and water collection. They then performed in-class sample tests, and separated into smaller groups to run tests on storm drains impacted by lunch time on campus, the athletic fields, high traffic areas, runoff from a roof, and the school parking lot.
After visiting San Clemente’s Water Reclamation Center to learn about potable water and filtration, the students devised their own solutions for keeping storm drains free from dirt and litter.
Such ideas included using screens to reduce the amount of dirt and other waste that enters the drains and increasing awareness of the importance of avoiding littering by designing posters.
“I love (the program) because it makes (students) feel like they’re making a difference and they’re making an impact,” Wilson said about why she enjoys leading endeavor. “They go to the beach all summer, they swim at the beach, and it’s really impacting the environment, so what they’re doing is helping outside of school.”
At the end of the presentation, school principal Nick Stever recognized Wilson in front of the audience of parents for her work in developing the program on campus and giving students an opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise had.
“(For) what students have been able to learn about science, what students have been able to learn about this specific topic, and just the passion that has evolved, that I’ve seen, I want to give her a formal thanks,” Stever said.
Poseidon Education CEO Bill Dean and COO Patti Diaz were also on hand for Wednesday’s event.
Dean started the program around 10 years ago, after a career of writing stormwater pollution prevention plans at a trash and recycling company. Since then, schools in California, Nevada and Hawaii have picked up the initiative.
As the sponsor, Poseidon does much of the legwork in contacting outside agencies and connecting them with schools so that their programs can function.
Poseidon’s goal, according to Dean, is to bring an awareness of environmental issues to the younger generation so that they learn to care about it and take action later in life.
Both Dean and Diaz spoke about the importance of presenting career opportunities in the environmental field to students, in part because the industry needs new talent and also because consideration for the environment should guide personal decisions and voting going forward.
“(The career path) is basically recession-proof, because we’re always going to need clean water,” said Diaz. “We’re always going to want the ocean clean for our health and the climate and all that. So, it’s a great way to teach the kids some personal responsibility, and at the end, they actually achieve something meaningful.”
Diaz presented each participating student with a certificate of recognition and told them all to contact her if they need letters of recommendation in the future.