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Middle schoolers plant for the future

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On Wednesday, May 30, 2018 42 Hernando County students planted smooth cordgrass salt marsh plants at a restoration site in Linda Pedersen Park. Seventh grade students from Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology charter school have been growing this marsh grass on campus throughout the school year. It was funded by a grant from the Department of Environmental Protection, Hernando Environmental Land Protectors and fundraisers.

The money went towards getting supplies to build the nursery, building it, and obtaining equipment such as salt and ph meters as well as for supplies for learning activities.  

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission donated the original 1,000 plants which were harvested from a donor marsh in Manatee County. This was the 20th anniversary of their first donation.

Last summer, a pond-like nursery was built on school grounds at Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology before the students got there. As part of the oceanography section of the curriculum for Mr. Walker’s seventh grade science class, a total of 42 students got to participate in this hands on learning experience. The curriculum was modeled after Tampa Bay Watch “Grasses in Classes” program.

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Mr. Walker’s students grew the plants at school and took turns cleaning algae, adding salt, making mud, putting in trays, testing the water quality as well as monitoring the progress. They learned how to use the instruments as well as about pollution and ecology.

 project seems to have been very successful since the students received 1000 plants in September and propagated them to 3000.

The plants were transported from the school that morning and the students were scheduled to begin planting at Linda Pedersen at 10:00 am, however because of the weather it was delayed for about 30 minutes. Mother Nature decided not to play nice and the rain just kept coming. The tide kept rising as the rain poured down.

The dedicated students, volunteers, interns and employees pressed on and persevered through the storm, got in the water and planted the grass.

Brittany Hall Scharf, Florida Sea Grant Agent, says, “The kids were very eager” about the project from start to finish. She also explained that there are two main marsh grasses that are dominant in Hernando County- Smooth cordgrass which is low marsh grass that tolerates being flooded well and Black needlerush grass which is high marsh grass and does not tolerate being flooded as well.

They chose to plant smooth cordgrass this year because of the pecking order of the grass. Next school year they will be planting the black needlerush grass. What an exciting way to end the year!

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