Encinitas USD, Encinitas, California
Challenge: Because of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Encinitas is deeply affected by water pollution, marine debris and, particularly, storm water runoff that can close beaches for as many as three days after a big rain.
Initiative: Through the SWPPP Internship program, fifth- and sixth-grade students dig deep into the science of pollution to develop best management practices to reduce runoff at their school sites. They meet weekly to study watersheds, impervious surfaces, and the pollutants generated by their campuses. They learn how to take industry-grade rain samples and compare results to EPA benchmarks. They also implement conservation measures and take field trips to the ocean and water treatment plants.
Impact: SWPPP students have removed measurable amounts of pollutants from their school runoff, and (with the help of a grant) have installed two large “bioswale” drainage areas, with three more planned by the end of the school year. Students also speak around the region about how schools can mitigate damage to the ocean.
Advice: “The SWPPP Internship program was specifically designed to be replicated in other school districts,” says Gerry Devitt, director of facilities, maintenance, operations and grounds. Public speaking, community advocacy and research skills can also be developed through the program.