The Bolles Lower School Ponte Vedra Beach campus was one of five St. Johns County elementary schools to partner with the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research Reserve to build a tidal hydroponic system in a greenhouse and work to seed smooth cordgrass, also known as Spartina alterniflora. The cordgrass can be used as plugs to help restore estuary habitats.
As part of the citizen science project, Bolles worked with GTMNRR researchers to build a greenhouse and hydroponic system. Kenneth Rainer, education coordinator with the GTM Rearch Reserve, directed the greenhouse assembly.
Additionally, fifth grade students have partnered with second grade students to count, measure and record data monthly on the Spartina plugs they've planted. Older students are learning about hydroponic and tidal systems before teaching their younger counterparts how to measure and record their data.
“By collaborating their efforts, both grades will gain an understanding of the importance of accuracy in collecting data which helps paint the picture of the growth rate of this important plant,” said science teacher Carolyn Houston, who is spearheading the scientific work on campus. “Students will begin to see how the ‘numbers’ tell a story about the health of the plants in our care.”
At the end of their academic year, fifth grade students will take a culminating trip to Jekyll Island where students will immerse themselves in the ecology and environmental importance of the salt marsh estuary.
“This year, Grade 5 students will have spent a year studying and growing the grasses that make the estuary,” Houston said. “Helping to restore salt marshes by growing the plant that provides the base of the ecosystem will further connect our students to this vital ecosystem.”