Students' plan solves park problem - Catholic Courier

Students’ plan solves park problem

AVON — When children talk, adults don’t always listen. That wasn’t the case for four sixth-graders at St. Agnes School, who this past school year worked with adults in their community to find a way to solve a drainage problem at Avon Driving Park.

Students in Melissa Savino’s technology class were given several options for projects to complete during the 2004-05 school year. Danielle Sancilio, Emilie Mulligan, Maxwell Klotz and Mary Kate Taylor formed a team and decided to complete a project to submit to the Christopher Columbus Awards competition.

According to its Web site, the Christopher Columbus Awards is "a cutting-edge national competition that combines science and technology with community problem-solving in a real-world setting." The winner of the competition receives money to implement his or her project.

The St. Agnes students’ first step was to find a community problem they could try to improve. The team came up with the drainage problem at Avon Driving Park because it directly affects them. The school holds its end-of-the-year picnic at the park, and many of its students play community baseball and softball games there.

"Lots of the baseball and softball games were canceled because of the wetness, and also (there were) bugs that were flying around everywhere," Maxwell said.

"It is a low-lying area, and in the summertime with the rain and the sulfur springs, it is a mosquito haven," said John Barrett, superintendent of public works for the Village of Avon who worked with the students on the project.

Each member of the team had a specific job to do. Mary Kate created visual designs for the drainage solution; Maxwell was the president of research, covering the math aspects of the project; and Emilie was the secretary, keeping notes on the team’s work and writing the project report.

"I was the team captain," Danielle said. "I helped people. … I was the person who called the (state Department of Environmental Conservation)."

After the students defined their project responsibilities, they went to work researching maps and calculating expenses using the Internet. After gathering that information, they turned to area experts for help.

Those experts — such as officials from the DEC — "really taught us a lot," Emilie said.

"(They) pointed us in the right direction," Mary Kate agreed.

The sixth-graders looked at several different options for fixing the water problem — such as erecting bright lights to dry the park’s wet areas — before deciding that installing a drainage system was the best solution.

They modeled their drainage plan after one that was successfully implemented at a baseball field in Nunda. Using an aquarium, the students created a working model of their drainage solution, which consisted of piping and layers of pea gravel, sand and topsoil.

"You’d have a 4-inch drain cover, with fine stone to give it better drainage, and then cover it with topsoil so you can keep your grass," said Peter Kanouse, district manager of the Livingston County Soil and Water Conservatory, who worked with the students on the project.

The piping that is currently in use at the park drains {1/4} inch of water a day. The students’ new drainage plan incorporated a pipe that, according to their calculations, would drain 1 inch of water every 10 to 15 minutes. When they tested their solution in the aquarium, it worked just as they had planned, they said.

Emilie said the project took "a ton of teamwork."

"Since there’s only four of us, you really feel like you have to pull your weight," she said.

"Most of our time as an actual team, after we had gone through all the information … was building the actual model," Maxwell noted.

According to Savino, the drainage project was one of 1,000 entries in this year’s Christopher Columbus Awards competition, and was one of 30 entries to advance to the competition’s semifinals. Since the project did not advance past the semifinal stage, the students did not receive money to implement their idea.

"This is a project that needs to be done, so we are still looking for grant opportunities throughout the village," Maxwell said.

Barrett, who said he thought the students had a really good idea, said that hopefully sometime in the future, some adaptation of their project will be implemented at the park.

"Right now for us, everything is a priority with money and time," he said. "It’s on our radar scope; we’re just not sure when it will be done."

Savino said the project has been an important learning experience for the students.

"They can do something to incorporate change," she said. "They can make a difference in their community, and I think that’s an important lesson to learn."


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