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Two District Five schools win “Champions of the Environment” grants from DHEC

Irmo, SC – Dutch Fork Middle School and Irmo High School have been awarded “Champions of the Environment” grants by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

Established in 1993, Champions of the Environment has been empowering youth environmental action for 25 years. DHEC selects eight schools each year as grant winners of $2,000 to be used towards environmental learning.

“This year, Champions of the Environment grant program winners will establish wildlife habitats, and develop learning gardens and outdoor classrooms,” said Amanda Ley, DHEC’s coordinator for the Champions of the Environment program. “Environmental education programs like the Champions program provide opportunities for students to become engaged in real environmental issues that go far beyond the classroom and hopefully make a lasting impact.”

Dutch Fork Middle’s ACTION for Unity program will use the grant to work with special needs classes on improving an outdoor classroom by increasing plant diversity to attract pollinators. Last year, a rain garden was established on campus to resolve a storm water runoff issue. Since that time, students have learned about erosion prevention, water quality and conservation practices.

“We are so excited that DHEC has awarded us with this grant,” said Dutch Fork Middle teacher and ACTION coordinator Lori Wenzinger. “Our outdoor classroom has come so far since we created it three years ago, and this grant will allow us to continue building our relationships and learning about plant diversity to attract pollinators.”

Irmo High’s program will also work with special education students to support a bee population by composting cafeteria waste for a pollinator garden. The bees are expected to arrive in February 2018. A bee hive will be provided through the Lexington County Soil and Water Conservation District. Science classes will create and distribute informative pamphlets about what compost is and how it benefits the environment.

“Our goal in the science department has been to secure a beehive and it is finally coming to fruition,” said Irmo High science teacher Peter Lauzon. “This grant will allow our students to expand their knowledge even further by studying the bees and the compost process. We cannot thank DHEC enough for naming Irmo High as a Champion of the Environment!”

For more information on the Champions program, visit

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Call Paul Kirby

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