Students and teachers at six Clarke and Jackson County schools have received Eugene Odum Environmental Grants to carry out projects that help students learn environmental lessons and improve their schools.  Nutter & Associates funds two of the projects; Gaines Elementary School & Rutland Academy.

The Odum Grants are awarded as part of GreenFest 2011, being held in April and May.  Sponsors of the grants are Nutter &  Associates,   ReCommunity, Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful, the Eugene Odum School of Ecology at UGA, the Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission, the University Optimist Club and the Kiwanis Club of Athens.

This is the 18th year the grants, named for famed University of Georgia ecologist Eugene Odum, have been presented as a way to encourage young people to learn about environmental problems and issues through hands-on activities.  Since 1994, a total of 36 schools has received about $19,000 through the Odum Grants program.  Every school in the Clarke County School System has received at least one grant and several have won multiple grants.  Private schools in Clarke County, as well as public  schools in Oconee, Oglethorpe, Madison and Jackson counties,  also have received grants.

This year’s winning schools and the teachers who submitted proposals will be recognized at the annual GreenFest Awards Ceremony April 15,  5:30 p.m.,  at the UGA ecology building.

Following are descriptions of winning projects:

Students at Gaines Elementary School, under guidance of teacher Susan Criswell, will improve a wetland bog at the school by purchasing pitcher plants, wetland grasses and other plants that thrive in a bog, and by channeling water from a water barrel to the bog.  Students will observe and research birds, insects and other wildlife attracted to the bog.

Whit Davis Elementary students, led by teacher Steven King, will buy and install a variety of plants for four large planter beds  in the school courtyard.  The plants, including butterfly-attracting flowers, native wildflowers, bog plants and a succulent garden, will create an outdoor laboratory for students to observe plant growth, adaptation and reproduction and learn about maintenance of a garden.

Teacher Christina Hylton’s upper-level students at Rutland Academy will use the grant to beautify school grounds by buying and planting wildflowers and herbs, creating a butterfly garden and installing birdhouses.  Students will use some herbs to support a 4-H project that provides organic vegetables for a local soup kitchen, and they will also make herbal kitchen pots to sell at the Bishop Park Farmer’s Market.

Middle-grade students at Athens Montessori School, led by teacher Melody Mosby, will  purchase and install plants and seeds in an organic garden and in a newly opened section of a nature reserve.   Produce from the garden will be sold at the school’s Harvest Market.

Students in Dr. James Maudsley’s environmental science class at Classic City High School will create a butterfly garden for the school’s new campus on Dearing Extension.  Students  will survey the garden site for soil types, soil moisture and sunlight to determine the best native species to plant to attract butterflies.  Entomology students will use the garden as a study area and for insect collecting.

Benton Elementary teacher Judith Gault’s fifth-grade students  will start a composting project using red wiggler worms to turn food scraps from the school cafeteria into nutrient-rich soil for the school’s vegetable gardens.  Students will monitor the amounts of scraps used, record the volume of compost produced and create a flow chart  to use in teaching lower-grade students about composting.   They will  develop a composting demonstration for the school’s annual Spring Fling.

The late Eugene Odum, namesake of the grants, was an internationally known ecologist who was associated with UGA for more than 50 years.

You can read more about the Eugene Odum Environmental Grant at Athens/Banner Herald.