The floating islands that Mrs. Ripa and her students put into the school pond, thanks to their award from the 2016 STEM Education Innovation Challenge Grant Competition, are continuing to provide amazing educational experiences for students at MMS.
This was the first winter for the islands that Ripa and her students installed as part of their “Power Plants” project, which was designed to help remediate stormwater pollution in the school pond through the use of native plants.
“The plants did well over the winter, the islands stayed anchored, and we were all very impressed with how everything started re-growing this spring,” said Ripa. The students have been learning about the difference between annuals, perennials, and biennials and tying it into their discussions about the islands.
Last fall, this current team of students, led by Ripa, studied earth systems, identified the plants already growing in the pond, did baseline tests on water quality and researched native and invasive plant species in order to select the best plants choices to increase biodiversity in the pond. The islands were planted and installed before the fall frost.
In addition to the conservation grass mix and a mix of perennials provided by Longfellow’s Greenhouse, the group is now attempting to grow rice on the islands. They germinated two varieties of rice from Wild Folk Farm and planted the island tops using Coast of Maine soil products.
“It’s very cool to see the roots growing through the islands and into the water,” said Ripa. “The students have been very engaged in monitoring the islands, replanting, observing aquatic species, and testing the water. This has been an amazing STEM project that will tie to our science curriculum year after year!”