Talkin’ Trash at NDA
TYNGSBORO -- Six eighth-graders at the Academy of Notre Dame are making waves in a competition sponsored by the National Geographic Society.
Under the guidance of Middle School Science Instructor Jamie Glennie, the students are taking part in the GeoChallenge, an annual themed and standards-based competition that challenges student groups in grades 5-8 across the country to develop a creative solution to a real-world problem. This year’s challenge is “Tackling Plastic in our Waterways.”
The self-proclaimed “Trash Truckers” team consists of Meghna Sridhar (Nashua, N.H.), Yesenia Collins (Tyngsboro), Rachel Korwan (Westford), Annalise Stangroom (Lowell), Mya Shanahan (Dunstable) and Alexis Martineau (Merrimack, N.H.). They meet once a week to develop a solution to prevent plastic items from reaching the ocean through local waterways, including the Merrimack River.
“One of the greatest challenges around the Merrimack River is that the storm drains all have very large holes, making it easy for debris to slip through and enter the water way,” Meghna said. “Our team’s solution uses chicken wire under the drain as a sort of net that will collect the plastic and other debris before it reaches the river.”
The team was also tasked with creating a source-to-sea map. The plan is to finalize an interactive story map to show how the Merrimack River water leads to the sea in Newburyport. In early November, the students participated in a YouTube presentation about designing the map where they were able to listen to other teams discuss their projects and presented their own for others to hear. A representative from the National Geographic Society provided the team with positive constructive feedback.
Meghna said the National Geographic Society representative “said our team’s plan to build a storm-drain solution was easy to implement and low-cost, making the project a realistic solution that could really make a difference.”
Once the team’s project is in place, the storm drains will be checked on a weekly basis to collect the debris caught with the chicken wire. The team will measure its results to track effectiveness.
The students have taken off running with their project, integrating their solution to two storm drains on campus to bring awareness to this type of pollution. One drain has been painted as a flower with the wording of the school’s Hallmark #5 on each petal, “We embrace the gift of diversity,” while the second one will feature a quote from the school’s founder, St. Julie Billiart.
Glennie has been pleased with how involved and dedicated each of the students has been in the project.
“I am very impressed with the leadership and collaboration that this group has shown, as well as their commitment to making a difference in our environment,” he said.
The team’s final project will also include a video that the students will produce as a way to demonstrate their project.
All entries are due by the end of January. If the “Trash Truckers” advance in the competition, they will attend regionals in Chicopee at the end of March.