Birmingham Middle Schoolers Help Make Local Impact
Over five weeks this summer, 120 middle-schoolers from inner-city Birmingham, Alabama, did hands-on science, monitoring water quality near the headwaters of Village Creek, which runs through downtown Birmingham. The Sierra Club's Water Sentinels Program donated t-shirts to all participants and provided water testing kits.
Two separate camp sessions were sponsored by the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Summer Science Institute. "The kids thought these were the best camps they'd ever been to," says Taylor Steele, Director of Science Education for Cornerstone Schools of Alabama. "The irony is that the camps essentially took place in their back yards, but because of their day-to-day life they're not exposed to the microhabitats that run right through Birmingham"
Students collected, submitted, and analyzed their data through Alabama Water Watch. The data will be used as part of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant to look at the long-term effects of storm water runoff and habitat degradation for the endangered Watercress Darter, found in four local springs.
"Many city kids don't sense that their contribution is valued, but through these camps, their work is acknowledged and celebrated," says Steele. "They saw themselves on local TV, and they were so proud to tell their parents and friends about their work. This kind of experience lays the foundation for kids to be lifelong learners. They value themselves because they value what they know."
Read more about the Sierra Club's work in Alabama. All photos by Taylor Steele.