So.. Your Plan is to Move the School Closer to the Superfund Site?

Ever discover something a little late into the process?

“You aren’t eating those blackberries, are you?..
Didn’t you know this is a Superfund site?”

The president of the neighborhood association was looking at me with concern as my blue stained fingers and lips were answering her questions all by themselves as I froze, wide-eyed in front of her.

Yes, I could still taste the six sweet berries I’d picked and devoured moments ago.
And No, I didn’t know that there was a Superfund site on the edge of the school property.
So I was quickly running the calculus on whether I needed to reroute their path from my digestive system.

Had the roots and stems of the black berries conveyed toxic chemicals into the berries?
Had the venting of chemicals at the site coated the berries?
Would I develop health issues from a six berry dosage?

Sure, it’s not the typical math calculation one would encounter at the high school, but it seemed like a pretty good STEM problem to work through in the next, um, 60 seconds as the berries were still digesting.

This is a perfect example of why it’s important to involve community members, students and staff into the school and neighborhood planning processes. They often know the area, its people, history, and potential often far better than the experts involved in the design.

The existing plan is to build the new school closer to the
Superfund site.

This is an excellent opportunity for students to investigate the history and remediation of the site and to offer information
and guidance to the school system on whether the new school should be built closer to this site.

Here are some links to documents concerning the site:

https://semspub.epa.gov/work/03/103798.pdf

https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/dsp_ssppSiteData1.cfm?id=0300344#Why

Here is a document outlining work at the site. Below this is a quick list of items that students may wish to research. -shan

EPA’s Involvement at this Site

•The EPA completed the first phase of the cleanup, removing drums and contaminated soils back in 1984. Approximately 1,200 drums were removed, some containing flammable solids.
•EPA also entered into a covenant not to sue with Bay View Golf Inc in 1997.
•The fifth five-year review for the soil capped area (Operable Unit 1 or OU1), which is currently a golf driving range, was done in April 2010 and found that the components of the remedy constructed as part of the OU1 Record of Decision remain protective of human health and the environment. The remedy for Operable Unit 2 has not been implemented, and therefore is not subject to review until construction of the remedy is underway.
•A Vapor Intrusion (VI) study was completed in summer of 2014. Three commercial buildings were found to have potential VI issues. A VI mitigation system was installed by PRPs at one commercial building in 2014 and mitigation work is in progress for another one.
•More monitoring wells were installed as part of Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS)and FFS.
•During Spring 2014 two pilot extraction wells were installed and the pilot extraction and treatment system is expected to start in fall of 2015. Data will be collected to evaluate hydraulics of the bedrock aquifer.

What is the current site status?

•During Spring 2014 two pilot extraction wells were installed and the pilot extraction and treatment system is expected to start in fall of 2015. Data will be collected to evaluate hydraulics of the bedrock aquifer.
What’s being done to protect human health and the environment?
•The site is being addressed through federal and potentially responsible party (PRP) actions.
•The agency chose a soil management plan to establish health and safety requirements.
•EPA has conducted several five-year reviews of the site’s remedy. These reviews ensure that the remedies put in place protect public health and the environment, and function as intended by site decision documents. The most recent review concluded that response actions at the site, for the parts of the remedy that have been implemented, are in accordance with the remedy selected by EPA and that the remedy continues to be protective of human health and the environment.

Enforcement Information

EPA signed an administrative consent order with the PRPs to perform a focused feasibility study to evaluate a different cleanup strategy for the groundwater.

Renewable Energy Activity

The 10-acre Kane & Lombard Street Drums Superfund site is located at the corner of Kane and Lombard streets in Baltimore, Maryland. For more than 22 years, an open dump for disposing of demolition, municipal and industrial wastes operated at the site. Disposal activities resulted in the contamination of groundwater and soil at the site. At the request of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), EPA investigated the site. In 1986, EPA added the site to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL). EPA worked closely with the local community, MDE, and a private investment group to design and implement a cleanup that allowed for the redevelopment of the property. As part of the site remedy, EPA removed drums of waste, installed a subsurface barrier to prevent further contamination of groundwater and constructed a permanent cap over contaminated soil. EPA also restricted land and groundwater use at the site to prevent exposure to contaminated soil and groundwater. Today, the property is home to a golf course driving range, a parking lot, a cellular telephone tower, a sea-land trailer repair facility and a trucking facility.

Here are some of the questions students could investigate:

Where did the barrels come from?

What chemicals did the barrels contain?

What are the estimates for leakage at the site(s)

What was done in the remediation so far?

What areas/buildings have been affected by the site?

Has there been recent testing? If so, what do these test show?

When was the aquifer at the site drained?

What did the water and air tests show at that time?

What was the legal settlement with EPA?

What about remediation 2? Was it started? If not, why not?

What is the area contaminated by the chemicals?

Good luck on this learning project. Let me know if you have problems finding information or if you need help.

-shan
410 336 8239

Learning By Design: How the 21st Century School Building project can create better learning, collaboration and schools.

Building More Than Buildings:

How the 21st Century Building Project can improve our learning, collaboration, and the schools we build.

 

When Andre Alonso announced the funding of the 21st Century School Building project in Baltimore City, he restated a quote from Winston Churchill:

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

It is a reminder of the importance of this shaping, and of our opportunity to build learning and community through the design process. If our buildings are to transform our education and our communities, we must first transform how we shape them.
Meaningful involvement of teachers, students, community members and experts in the design of these buildings can inform the architects and city planners of the needs, problems and hopes for the school and community. In turn, these experts can share their insights on how to create better functioning buildings, improve neighborhood design, and access job opportunities. This collaborative learning enables us to build not just a better school building, but also a better school culture and more successful students and communities.

 
Charrette or Charade?

The size and speed of the school construction project is daunting.     It is easier to look across a nearly empty room and check the box for community involvement and move on. But if we are to build learning and gain the wisdom and support of our communities, we need to fill these rooms and strengthen relationships still aching from school closings. Poor communication, and short, disjointed public engagement is failing to create the sustained involvement and trust necessary for successful collaboration. Even staff and teachers have been left without valid information on the status of their school construction projects.
Failure to integrate the design process into school curriculum and after school programs robs our students of a golden opportunity to learn and to shape their future.
Shaping our learning  (we don’t have to wait to collaborate).
Building and neighborhood design processes are perfectly suited for collaborative STEM and experiential learning—the learning these new schools are supposed to foster. Engaging students, faculty and community members in this learning can prepare them to participate in the design process while strengthening their skills in math, science, engineering, health, and economics.
Starting with their existing school, students can collect data on the temperatures, humidity, air quality, lighting, acoustics, and asthma triggers. They can study how to improve bus service, reduce energy use and storm water runoff at their school. This information can help inform the school design process and prepare students to examine larger questions including:

• What are the biggest problems in the community and how can our school help solve them?
• How can our school foster the health and learning of our students and community?
• How can our school help students and their families obtain economic and educational opportunities?

Studying these issues with planning experts and community members would bring more wisdom to the design processes and demonstrate how we can learn and collaborate to solve real problems.  This is the educational and cultural transformation that Baltimore needs. If we are to build our promises, we need to start now with pilot programs and partners.
-Shan

Experiment You

posted in: Blog, Healthy Schools, STEM learning | 0

How Students Can Improve Their Health And Learning.

 

Our schools constantly test our students to measure their achievement.

But if we want to improve student achievement, it’s time for students to test their schools.

 

  • Are classrooms too hot or too cold?
  • Are pest and mold problems causing asthma attacks and absences?
  • Are students getting enough exercise and water?
  • Do students need glasses to read the board and their textbooks?
  • Does poor bus service cause students to be late or miss school?
  • Are lunches nutritious and palatable?
  • Why are so many students still failing to succeed in math and science?

 

Challenging students to investigate and improve their health and learning engages them in a meaningful, real world scientific inquiry.

It is a perfect fit for STEM, Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core curriculum. 

Students get hands on training for careers in health, building, teaching, and social science.

 

Students see how they can use science and innovation to improve their lives.

 

Experiment You  engages students as scientists and problem solvers in a very real and important experiment: how can we use our learning and innovation to improve our lives?

As a STEM based inquiry, students use surveys, observations, and tools to benchmark their health and the health and learning conditions at their school.

 

Surveys
Students learn to create and use surveys to gain information on student health and school conditions.

How many students have missed school because of asthma related issues? What classrooms are too hot or cold? Where have students seen mold, mice or cockroaches? Are students getting enough healthy foods, sleep and exercise?

 

Tools for Schools
Using the Tools for Schools walk through assessment from EPA, students discover and report asthma triggers at their schools.

 

Operations Report Card
Using the Operations report card protocol from the Collaboration for High Performing Schools (CHPS) students collect and analyze data on the temperature, humidity, air quality, lighting and acoustics.

 

Energy Star Portfolio Manager
Using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager, students can benchmark the carbon footprint of their school and compare the energy use of their school to similar schools in their area. Students identify ways to eliminate energy waste at their school.Solving for …us.
After collecting this data, students are challenged to create improvements in each of these areas. Finding ways to improve their health and the conditions at their school engages students in real world problem solving at ground level.

 

  • Can cross ventilation reduce excessive heat in classrooms or does the air conditioning need to be fixed?
  • Why are the outdoor security lights on in the daytime?
  • How can students help reduce the amount of pests in the school without chemicals?
  • How can we reduce asthma related absences at our school?
  • Is there an easy way to screen students for vision problems?

 

Engaging students in solving problems which they face,

challenges them to take control and responsibility of their own learning and futures.

 

Every school is a laboratory and every student is an experiment.

The question is whether our students will remain lab rats running a maze, or whether they become scientists and innovators, using their learning to improve their conditions and outcomes. This is rich learning that grows the confidence and competence of our students. It is time.
-Shan

The Importance of Being Insistent

The outdoor lights are blazing away trying to keep up with the bright sun shining outside of North Avenue–the Baltimore City Public Schools district office. It’s an interesting welcome to a meeting on sustainability policy.

 
But inside the board room, something is different. Purpose and determination.  As Cheryl Casciani, a school board member pages through the draft of the sustainability policy, she is pointing out parts of the policy that staff need to revise.

 
“Encourage isn’t strong enough,” We need to change it to Insist.”

 
Peering over her glasses at school officials, Casciani moves quickly through the document to ask for stronger policies to protect children. Her points are quick, thoughtful and insistent.

 

“I’d like all toxics out of our schools… stop bus idling in front of schools…it’s a health issue.”
For a school district that still hasn’t implemented green cleaning as required by the state, this insistence toward progress is necessary and overdue. Plagued with poorly maintained schools and a lack of resources, change will only come when it is demanded and verified.
But how can we verify that changes in policy to improve the health and learning of students will be implemented in our schools?

 
Let the students do it.

 
Let our students use their school as a science laboratory, gathering and analyzing data on factors that affect their health and learning. Using common professional tools and protocols, our student can monitor, analyze and report on the environmental factors that affect their health and learning.

 
Students can use Tools for Schools by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to proactively find and report issues that could trigger asthma attacks if left uncorrected. Using the Operations Report Card by the Collaboration for High Performance Schools (CHPS), students can monitor classroom ventilation, temperatures, humidity, and acoustics. Adding their school to the data base of the Energy Star Portfolio manager enables them to compare their energy use to similar schools and to calculate cost savings of energy renovations or improved operations.

 

 

As a hands-on science project investigating air quality, health, energy, engineering and technology, it aligns perfectly with Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core, Maryland Environmental Literacy requirements and STEM. This project studies the school as a system, integrating knowledge from the health professionals, facilities managers, custodians and teachers to improve the health and learning conditions at the school.
The information that students provide to the district could avoid or remedy health hazards, reduce repair costs and identify potential cost savings. In a pilot project at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, students and faculty noticed excessive water charges over a several year period. The city water department has now credited over $447,000 back to the school district. Not bad for a one week project.
This project empowers students to use science and innovation to improve their school environment, their learning, and their lives. We owe them this chance. Let’s insist upon it.

For all of our children, thanks, Cheryl.

  • IMG_0026 by Shan Gordon.
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Learning about the Real Stuff

In a room filled with scientists, researchers and government officials, two seniors from City College High School, Nil Walker and Cameron Potts are answering questions about their summer research project. They explain how they collected and counted mosquito larvae, tested the water quality and velocity in local steams and counted pollinators. Potts tells how they used timothy grass immersed in water to attract mosquitoes and how they detected leaking sewage in the Gwynns Falls. “First it smelled like outdoors, then it smelled like eggs, then it smelled like the real stuff, he says, wrinkling up his face at the thought of the “ real stuff” in the stream.

IMG_0026 by Shan Gordon.
Nil Walker, a senior at City College High School in Baltimore, talks about his environmental research and his college plans at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study annual meeting.
IMG_0015 by Shan Gordon.
Cameron Potts, a senior at City College High School in Baltimore discusses his summer research with the Young Environmental Scientist program, YES-BES.

Potts lights up as he talks about this research. “If I had found out about this earlier, I would have joined as a freshman.” “I want to learn this stuff to be able to help my community,” Potts said.
Professors and researchers are leaning in, asking where they want to go to college, handing out their cards.

Bob Shedlock, a retired researcher from USGS shook hands with the students. We don’t feel like there are enough people working in our field. We want to encourage them, he said.
While Baltimore simmered through a summer marked with conflict, these students spent five weeks doing real science to help understand and improve our environment and our community.
The program, YES BES, is a youth outreach program run by the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. This summer it paid 20 students to do environmental studies in the Baltimore area.
The program is searching for funding for the upcoming summer. If you would like to support this program or know someone or some organization who would, please contact Bess Caplin at 410-455-1863 caplanb@caryinstitute.org

IMG_0008 by Shan Gordon.
Alan Berkowitz photographs Nil Walker and Cameron Potts, seniors at City College High School in Baltimore, with their poster on the ecological research they did this summer in the Young Environmental Scientist program sponsored by the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. Berkowitz is BES Education Team Leader with the Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

The Annual meeting of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study continues today at the Cylburn Arboretum Vollmer Center at 4915 Greenspring Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21209 from 9am –noon.
A reception featuring art and design connected to ecological research in the Baltimore area is 5:30-8pm at 16 W North Avenue, Baltimore, 21201

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Historic Energy and Water Data, Baltimore City Public Schools

posted in: Resources | 0
energy-bench-photo by .

 Historic Energy and Water Data for Baltimore City Schools.  (Click on title to open data sheets)

Energy Answers Questioned. Why Students Are Fighting a Planned Incinerator Near their School.

Benjamin Franklin High School teacher, Kelly Klinefelter Lee thanks students for their critical thinking skills and citizenship as they continue to study and object to the proposed Energy Answers Incinerator. The proposed incinerator would be built on property a mile from the school and would burn waste including car tires and car parts from Maryland and other states. Curtis Bay is an industrial neighborhood in Baltimore that is already among the most polluted areas in the country.