By SHARON GENTRY, Special to The Mirror
Can students actually make a difference in their community?
Ask the CSI science team of Brooklake Christian School and they’ll answer with a unanimous “Yes!”
It all started this fall when a team of six students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade joined together to compete in the Lexus Environmental Challenge. This national competition challenges young people to make a difference by tackling an environmental problem in their area. The problem they settled on was literally in their own backyard, as Brooklake Christian School is located across the street from the Hylebos Creek wetland’s boardwalk.
During the next couple of weeks they learned what a wetland is, why it is important, and what might be endangering it. Out of this, “Destruction Day” was created. These six students then hosted a competition at their middle school, complete with donated prizes, to destroy nonnative blackberries from the Hylebos Creek wetlands. With the help of the Federal Way Parks and Recreation, the competition was able to remove 811 pounds of harmful blackberry vines in just two hours.
This success won them a prize package of $5,000 and the chance to compete in Lexus’s Final Challenge. The team is now working hard on its project for the finals. They have expanded their concern to salmon and their habitat, including wetlands. They have studied hard, visiting the Soos Creek fish hatchery, and talking with both the parks department, and the educational committee of the Friends of the Hylebos. Their hope is to encourage an increase of environmental education in the Federal Way School District by increasing the number of hands-on opportunities available to teachers.
The students have discovered many programs that are already in place; they’re just not here. Among their hopes is to circulate a flier to teachers about resources already available, encourage the City Council to support environmental education, and to purchase out of their prize money at least one “Salmon Trunk” (a hands-on educational kit to be used by the teachers of Federal Way and the surrounding area).
To help accomplish these goals, they have spoken to the Federal Way City Council and received letters of support from the council and Gov. Christine Gregoire.
If they win, they will be awarded a prize package worth $50,000. It is their hope that a part of this will be the “seed” money needed to see environmental education truly “take root” in Federal Way.
Sharon Gentry is a team advisor for CSI at Brooklake Christian School.