ENCINITAS — Twenty fifth- and sixth-grade students donning bright orange hard hats and safety vests sat facing a crowd of teachers, administrators and supporters on a bright Wednesday morning.
The group of students are members of El Camino Creek Elementary’s SWPPP (Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan) Team, and Wednesday the group celebrated the groundbreaking of a project that will do their part to improve the environment.
Over Spring Break, contractors will install several drainage retention areas known as bioswales in the campus quad and new rain barrels to collect and store runoff during peak storm events.
They will also construct other SWPPP projects at La Costa Heights and Flora Vista schools, all funded through a $700,000 grant that the district received in 2015, which SWPPP director Bill Dean applied for.
The students of the SWPPP team were involved every step of the way, from collecting stormwater samples and comparing their pollutant levels to EPA benchmarks, to planning the project, interviewing the contractors and selecting the landscape in the areas.
On Wednesday, the El Camino Creek SWPPP team members — who introduced themselves as “valuable members of SWPPP” — stood in front of a podium and talked about their experience in the program, which allows for students to produce a plan to manage their school’s stormwater runoff, and teaches them real-world lessons in science, best management practices in stormwater pollution prevention and engineering in the process.
Teachers and administrators of the program, which started in 2013, marveled at the students accomplishments and their increase in knowledge and environmental awareness over the course of the project.
“It’s hugely improved, they all come in with a great passion for the environment and they want to save the ocean, but it is in a very general, sweet-hearted statement,” said Melissa Barbano, who teaches the SWPPP program at El Camino Creek. “But by the end, they really understand what their personal impact is on the environment, and their knowledge, their technical knowledge of what exactly is going on and what the cause and effect is incredible.”
Some students, like Jack Dodson and Tyrasoleil Ringdahl, had been in the program for two years.
“SWPPP really has an impact on the school by making it more eco-friendly, and it will help the school save money by installing the rain barrels, which the school will then be able to use the rain water for irrigation,” Ringdahl said.
“I love SWPPP because we get to speak in front of people like you, implement ideas and come back in 10 years and say, ‘I helped build this,’” Dodson said. “And what I build will have an impact on the environment.”