Students tackling storm drain pollution with spray-paint campaign

As rain threatened in the skies above, Valentin and her classmates from Middle Township’s Concerned Citizens Homework Club huddled around the storm drains Wednesday on Main Street in the Whitesboro section of the township using a stencil to paint their message.

The students continued up and down Main Street, the culmination of an eight-week STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — residency by the Bayshore Center at Bivalve, a water conservancy group in Commercial Township, Cumberland County.

Other local schools in areas adjacent to waterways are also getting students involved in raising awareness of the consequences of dumping pollutants into local storm drains.

Recently, Margate students participated in a similar citywide storm drain painting and educational project titled “Only Rain Down The Drain!” last month that involved many city organizations.

Ali Place, education coordinator for Bayshore Center, said the organization had never worked with the fourth- and fifth-grade students from Middle Township before but were excited to spread the message in Cape May County, one of the state’s most environmentally sensitive locations.

Place has been visiting with the Middle Township students at the school every week about different STEM topics. The residency was themed, “Water? What About Water?,” and the students studied what lives in the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean, the health of the waterways and why storm drains are important to the watershed.

“We’ve done watersheds, we’ve learned about oysters, we’ve done an oyster dissection, looked at plankton,” she said. “A few of the students were somewhat familiar, but most of them it was new material for them. It all builds on itself.”

Elementary school teacher Pam Shute, supervisor for Homework Club, said that students are exposed to a variety of different topics in the afterschool program, which serves about 70 students from kindergarten through fifth grade. The Homework Club, sponsored by the Concerned Citizens of Whitesboro began in 2007 and has been at the school district for the last nine years.

Shute said that in addition to helping students with homework and providing dinner, the club brings in many different activities in for the kids like the Stealth Learning program last year, or more recently a boxing program.

“We’re constantly trying to find ways to make it a more enriching experience,” she said.

The students have been pretty interested in what they have been learning about through the Bayshore program, Shute said.

“And the students learn about keeping the environment clean in school, so this is a more in-depth study on it,” she said.