Education

Coast teachers get grants to focus on air quality, environment

Grant money from Mississippi Power will help update the Greenhouse at West Harrison High School in Gulfport.
Grant money from Mississippi Power will help update the Greenhouse at West Harrison High School in Gulfport. Mississippi Power

Perhaps as result of the Coast’s troubled history with hurricanes and the BP oil spill, many teachers at Coast schools have become experts on environmental issues.

For years, they’ve been instructing their students on smart use of the environment. And for just as long, they’ve been financially limited by the kind of projects that can really make a difference for the health and sustainability of our environment.

On Tuesday, they received some help from Mississippi Power in the form of grant money.

“We believe in nurturing the next generation of environmental visionaries. We hope these projects will foster an interest in environmental and engineering sciences, and promote stewardship across south Mississippi,” Mississippi Power Environmental Affairs Director Mark Loughman said in a news release.

“Hundreds of students will have the opportunity to participate in and learn from the great projects these teachers have proposed,” he said.

Selected teachers will use the grant to help with environmental education projects at their schools.

Grant uses

Last year, schools found creative ways to use the grant money.

For example, an Ocean Spring’s school used funding to create an aquaponics program, the first of its kind in the state. Students learned how to grow fish in a greenhouse, then use the fish waste to grow plants in a water-based environment. Students grew vegetables from the plants and sold them to the school.

The grant funded microscopes for schools in the Pine Belt, which was another first.

This year, STEM director of Ocean Springs elementary schools Deborah Holt plans to lead an air-quality campaign. She wants students to build and manage a weather station.

“Most people think with the Coast we have great air quality. It’s the opposite,” Holt explained. “When the wind retreats there’s a lot of smog. And with the wind, it can blow in a lot of pollutants. We’ll have different colored flags that signify air quality. We’ll have a centrally located weather station.”

L.C. Hatcher Elementary School in Lucedale will build outdoor classrooms under the direction of instructor Tara Rouse. They’ll build flower beds and vegetable gardens for use in the school cafeteria.

Most people think with the Coast we have great air quality. It’s the opposite.

STEM Director of Ocean Springs elementary schools, Deborah Holt

Patricia Johnson at West Harrison High School will use the grant money to upgrade the school’s greenhouse.

And grant money will pay for environmental science books for students at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Elementary School in Biloxi.

A total of 35 schools from across the company’s service territory, which includes 180 schools, received a share of the $15,000 grant.

Fifteen Coast teachers were among the grant recipients:

▪ Kelly Pennell and Marie Paple at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Elementary School in Biloxi

▪ Tara Rouse at L.C. Hatcher Elementary School in Lucedale

▪ Anne Wolford at Anniston Elementary School in Gulfport

▪ Millicent Gunter at Bayou View Elementary School in Gulfport

▪ Patricia Johnson at West Harrison High School in Gulfport

▪ Deborah Holt at Harper McCaughan Elementary School in Long Beach

▪ Dennis Shows at Long Beach High School in Long Beach

▪ Billy Carroll at Moss Point Career and Technical Center

▪ Linda Foster at Ocean Springs Upper Elementary School

▪ Kim Dahl at Pecan Park Elementary School in Ocean Springs

▪ Cindy Grammar at Our Lady of Fatima Elementary School in Biloxi

▪ Leigh Hanna and Victoria Waltman at Pascagoula High School

▪ Nicole McCardle at Poplarville Lower Elementary School.

▪ Harriet Bellone at St. Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis.

Mississippi Power’s Environmental Stewardship Council, a group of employees focused on promoting conservation-related projects, reviewed teacher and school project proposals.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

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