Divine Redeemer gets some green for environmental program

HANAHAN — Divine Redeemer School in Hanahan has landed a $10,000 grant to help them become “masters of their environment.”
The grant proposal was written by Andrea Niesse, who taught fifth grade last year and will teach second grade for the 2009-10 school year.
Niesse said her theme, “Go for the Green” was based on The Masters Golf Tournament because of the similarities between the game and her goals. Take the scorecard, for instance. In golf, the fewer points you have, the better. The same is true of the environment; using less energy produces less waste and lower bills. It also promotes good stewardship.
Decreasing the amount of waste produced by the school was a huge motivating factor in applying for the grant, Niesse said. As part of Berkeley County, Hanahan does not have curbside recycling, and every day paper, plastic and aluminum products were dumped.
“It pained me to see all that paper being thrown away,” the teacher said in a phone interview with The Miscellany.
Her husband David is an environmental engineer, and protecting the planet is a way of life. The couple even used cloth diapers after the birth of their first child, Niesse said.
“I’m really excited about the grant and the opportunity to help this little school,” she said. “If they start young then it’ll be part of their lifestyle.”
The funding from the BP Grants for Schools program will allow Niesse to implement school-wide recycling. Parents have volunteered to help collect and transport the materials.
They will also initiate a research project to track power usage and costs, including a comparison between rooms with energy efficient light bulbs and those without.
Jean Steinhoff, principal, credited Niesse with taking the initiative to apply for the grant and to create such a detailed, well-balanced plan. She said the school has received small awards of $1,000 or less, but to earn $10,000 is a rarity.
She said they were happily surprised to receive the funds and that it will be a great benefit for the students.
Steinhoff is most delighted that the money will provide for several laptop computers that will serve as a rolling computer lab and play a big part in the students’ environmental education as they investigate alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind and water.
Computer time will be supplemented with hands-on experiments and field trips. Niesse said they will build solar-powered cars and visit a barrier island, just to name two.
Laptops also will be used to produce slide shows and public service announcements that will be shown to the community at the end of the year.
In December, pupils will put their solar knowledge to the test by decorating the school Christmas tree with solar-powered Christmas lights. All of the decorations will be created with recycled, eco-friendly materials.
Niesse said she hopes each element of the “Go for the Green” program will provide students, teachers and parents with the tools and knowledge to take care of their planet.
In the end, the big picture will show how humans can lessen the harmful imprint they make on Earth.
She also hopes to create excitement for science that will translate into higher test scores and possibly even some future scientists.
As an incentive, students will be encouraged to reach different levels of green. Following the golf theme, they can be on par, a birdie, or an eagle, which is the school mascot and the best shot in golf, except for the rare hole-in-one. Youth who reach eagle status will be awarded a Green Apron, along the lines of the green coat worn by the Masters’ champion.
At the end of the year, the school community will wrap up all they have learned with a celebration of Earth day, and reveal how much energy they saved and how much paper they recycled.