Seven young environmentalists from the Encinitas Union School District presented the work they've completed at their schools to the California State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento on May 1.
The group of fifth and sixth graders — from Ocean Knoll, La Costa Heights and Olivenhain Pioneer (OPE) elementary schools — presented a summary of their work with their Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) internships, which have allowed them to develop and build water runoff projects on their school campuses.
Under the supervision of the 11- and 12-year-old interns, the EUSD — with a $720,000 grant from the State Water Board as part of its Dought Response Outreach Program for Schools (DROPS) — designed and constructed six quality projects at five schools, with the goal of reducing pollutants draining off the campuses before it reached local waterways.
Anna Vennemeyer, a sixth grader at La Costa Heights, described herself and her peers as "environmental leaders" in a presentation given to the board.
"[We] are raising awareness about the serious issue of pollution in our local waterways," she said. "We are teaching other students and the school staff as well as our community about behavior changes that need to be made, and what each individual can do to improve water quality."
Anna said that over the last four years, students in the SWPPP internship program have achieved goals such as reducing total suspended solids from flowing into catch basins; reducing litter on school sites; increasing awareness of stormwater pollution flowing off school campuses; creating projects that reduce food waste in lunch areas from flowing into storm drains; and improving stormwater quality in parking lot areas.
Most recently, OPE students on April 19 unveiled their project, featuring permeable asphalt, designed to filter runoff from the school campus before it drains into the ocean. Through their testing, the students noted high levels of pollutants draining off the parking lot at the school.
The program is offered at all nine schools within the EUSD. Projects at OPE, El Camino Creek, Flora Vista and La Costa Heights have already been completed.