Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Salt Marsh Soldiers' Clean Up, Study and Promote Wetlands; It's a Project for Biology Students at the Glynn County Grade 8.5 Center

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Salt Marsh Soldiers' Clean Up, Study and Promote Wetlands; It's a Project for Biology Students at the Glynn County Grade 8.5 Center

Article excerpt

Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI

BRUNSWICK - The Salt Marsh Soldiers gathered around as Vicki Klahn recently scratched their plan of attack in the gravel at their feet.

Their mission, Klahn explained, was straightforward.

"We're going to adopt this section of wetlands," said Klahn, who pointed to the nearby bank along the East Brunswick River and Academy Creek that was strewn with trash and debris, ranging from empty beer bottles and greasy burger wrappers to water-logged timbers from an old dock.

"Remember, if you see anything broken, don't touch it ... If you see an animal, just stop and watch it. Don't go near it," Klahn said to the "soldiers" - her biology students at the Glynn County School System's Grade 8.5 Center.

The students, who have named themselves Salt Marsh Soldiers, have adopted that section of wetland as part of a research project that emphasizes hands-on learning and public service.

Klahn, a teacher for six years, developed the project, which has three main components.

First, the students are adopting a section of wetland to clean up and monitor for environmental quality. They will collect water samples that will be analyzed to determine the biological and chemical content.

Second, they are creating two mosaic murals depicting plants and animals in the salt-marsh ecosystem. Wood salvaged from the marsh is being crafted by the students into a frame for the murals that will be entered in an upcoming statewide youth environmental competition. In addition, they will create a three-dimensional artwork using glass bottles collected at the site that can't be recycled.

Third, the students each will select a marsh animal or plant to research. That research requires the students to write a comprehensive paper and prepare a presentation using computers or some other form of technology.

"I'm doing spartina grass because everything runs on grass in the marsh," said Anqunette Williams, who also plans to research the periwinkle, a snail common to the salt marsh.

Students have also launched a paper recycling program at the school, Klahn said.

COMMUNITY IMPACT

The project's impact will extend beyond the classroom, Mayor Bryan Thompson said.

"These students are setting a really great example for everyone," Thompson said. "They are doing hands-on environmental biology, and by cleaning up the area they are doing a great service."

The area has evolved into an illegal dumping ground for trash and garbage. Flotsam, such as wooded planks from docks shattered by storms, litter the marsh.

However, it's also a popular fishing and crabbing site for Brunswick residents.

"What the students are doing there to make it better, is deeply appreciated. ... There is nothing too small that can be done, even if it's just picking up one piece of litter," Thompson said. …

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