SAS is using sustainable landscaping practices in the non-agricultural areas to protect reduce runoff and nutrients entering Noxontown Pond and enhance wildlife habitat. Projects include removing invasive plants, reducing mowed turf, improving meadows with wildflowers and native grasses, and enhancing an existing rain garden.
UD faculty have hired a recent Ag Education graduate, Karen Wiener to complete a summer internship and develop environmental science curriculum for St. Andrews School. Karen, who recently finished her student teaching at Middletown High School, has hit the ground running. After meeting with St. Andrews science teacher, Peter McClean and Environmental Coordinator, Brianna Barkus, Karen decided to develop guidelines for this fall’s environmental science senior independent project (IP). Working with faculty in Plant and Soil Science and Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, Karen is learning how to identify plants, trap insects, test soils and identify birds. She will test the sampling protocols this summer at St. Andrews. In the fall, St. Andrews seniors will break into groups to sample plants, insects, birds and soils in 5 different environments (agricultural field, meadow, woodland, pond edge, and suburban landscape). They will collect data on the numbers and diversity of plants and animals as well as soil and water quality. By the end of the year, they will have a thorough characterization of their sites and be able to make comparisons about environmental quality and biodiversity between sites. Students will engage in a debate at some point during the semester on a topic such as whether St. Andrews should continue to lease agricultural fields or allow those fields to become natural environments. Students will argue both sides of this debate considering environmental quality, costs, public opinion, etc. This project is designed to engage students in the fun of collecting real scientific data, analyzing the results and using the information to help inform policy.
This project doesn’t stop at St. Andrews. Once the curriculum is developed and tested during the 2009/2010 school year, faculty at UD plan to teach a freshman honors colloquium (fall 2010) in which approximately 22 UD students will conduct similar research and develop curricula that can be used by Delaware middle schools to engage students in scientific exploration of natural environments.