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Banneker students dig green project

Banneker Achievement Center eighth-graders Christopher Dukes left
Joseph Moore dig large hole preparatiplant native
tree Gary school Thursday. | Carole Carlson/Post-Tribune

Banneker Achievement Center eighth-graders Christopher Dukes, left, and Joseph Moore, dig a large hole in preparation to plant a native tree at the Gary school on Thursday. | Carole Carlson/Post-Tribune

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Updated: December 23, 2013 3:03PM



GARY — With speedy efficiency, Banneker Achievement Center students dug 15 holes on the northwest corner of the school property Thursday.

Fifteen native trees stood on root balls near the holes, awaiting planting.

The exercise provided the students with an environmental science lesson about the dune ecosystem around them with the aid of a shovel, not a textbook or computer.

“Children should be able to get outside the classroom and learn just as effectively as they can in school,” Principal Sarah Givens said.

Besides learning about the river birch, black oak and sugar maple trees, the students uncovered earthworms and grubs. One student even dug up a brick.

The Banneker students joined forces with the Student Conservation Association, a not-for-profit group dedicated to the protection and restoration of national parks. Their joint goal is to help protect the Marquette Park lagoon watershed.

One member of the Student Conservation Association and four Gary residents in the city’s brownfield training program are earning a stipend in this green internship program called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority won a $351,743 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the program earlier this year. The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority largely financed the $28 million Marquette Park renovation project and officials wanted to protect that investment by keeping the watershed free of sediment. The lagoon was dredged earlier as part of a $1 million EPA project to remove decades of sediment.

Because Banneker is part of the watershed, the school formed a partnership with the city to boost the kids’ interest in environmental science.

Christine Dittmar of Cardno JFNew, an ecological consulting and restoration firm based in Walkerton, said the Banneker students also created a wish list of items they wanted outside their school. They included bluebird houses, benches, a plaque near each tree, a rain gauge and a wood chip trail around the school that’s nestled in the dunes.

Miller residents have likely seen the efforts in their neighborhoods. The crew has built natural obstacles to keep sediment from properties from returning to the lagoon and contaminating it again.

Between Grand Boulevard and east to County Line Road, the crew is building nine rain gardens and three bioswales, planting trees and doing a turf-to-prairie conversion on Forest Avenue.

Dittmar said the trees planted at Banneker are 6- to 12-feet tall to discourage deer from eating them.



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