Lakota students study, help creek water quality

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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New nature area at Hopewell Elementary helps keep Mill Creek branch clean.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The water flowing in the creek next to Hopewell Elementary’s parking lot eventually ends up in the Gulf of Mexico and students here want to do their part to make both cleaner.

So with the help of a $123,450 environmental grant for drainage landscaping — and the planting and gardening of students at this Lakota school in West Chester Twp. — that water will be fresher as it flows past the school’s parking lot.

And students here also now have an outside classroom to better study and learn, hands on, the science and role of nature in filtrating man-made pollutants from rain run-off headed to their local creek.

It’s important both educationally and environmentally because the waterway is not just any creek.

The Hopewell school’s property includes a segment of the East Fork Mill Creek, which flows into the giant Mill Creek basin that empties into the Ohio River, recites fifth-grader William Komberec.

The motor oil, fertilizer and other pollutants that wash off the school’s parking lot before the extensive landscaping and planting may eventually find their way into the Mississippi River that empties into the Gulf of Mexico, said William.

“It makes me feel good,” he said watching his classmates taking notes and doing observational drawings in the newly planted area.

“It’s helping the world have fresher water,” he said.

Kara Scheerhorn, program and outreach director for the region’s Mill Creek Watershed Council of Communities, agreed with the youngster, saying the landscaping and new vegetation’s root systems will act as both natural barriers with filtration features.

“The school and parking lot are surfaces that do not soak-in water causing the water to move faster off these surfaces and into the stream. When storm water reaches the stream at a fast rate it causes the stream to flood and scour the stream bank — making the water muddy,” said Scheerhorn.

“Also, when the rain water moves across the parking lot and soccer fields it picks up car oils and fertilizer. While the school’s campus had some separation between the stream and the parking lot before the project took place, the corridor along the stream was mostly bush honeysuckle — an invasive plant that overtakes other native plants and provides almost no benefit to the stream bank due to its shallow root system,” she said.

Fifth-grade science teacher Carrie Murray said students at the school will help maintain the new natural area, which was dedicated last week in ceremony attended by Lakota, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and West Chester Township officials.

“It’s very cool. I teach eco-systems and this is a lovely connection I can bring them to it. We are making this our own and adopting it and protecting it,” said Murray.

William likes the full-immersion learning in nature.

“You don’t have to look at a video. You can get into it and you can do it in real life,” he said.

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