A new grant is benefiting students at Wilson West Middle School and the local Berks County community. Last year, teachers at the school applied for and received a $10,000 grant from PA American Water to turn the retention pond behind Wilson West into an environmental study area. These teachers, along with help from staff at Berks Nature, several community businesses, district maintenance and local townships, created an area for classes to use to learn about ecology and the environment. Trees and bushes were cleared, ground was excavated, and stone and macadam were put down to create a path to the pond. Fences were moved and gates put in to allow easier access for classes. A retention wall was built to prevent runoff from covering the path. Testing stations were created for water sampling along the pond, bird houses were installed to promote increased wildlife, and rain barrels were provided by Berks Nature, a local conservation organization, to help water from downspouts to water plants. In addition, Berks Nature also planted wild grasses and other foliage to cover the new area. A second path is also being created so students can access the creek that runs at the end of the school property.
Teachers have ordered testing supplies for the water and students are learning proper protocol. After being trained in NASA’s GLOBE data collection project, data from the school will be uploaded and can be used by scientists all over the world. Signs are being created and put in to mark the testing stations, explain the project, and thank all the community sponsors who helped make the project a success. Finally, we are in the process of planning and building an observation deck just outside the pond so that the community can enjoy the pond and watch some of the many species of birds that stop by.