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Cool Schools: Goshen New Tech Middle School learns water conservation through new incentive

GOSHEN, Ind. -- A new incentive in Elkhart County is encouraging the education of water conservation for local students. Goshen New Tech Middle School teachers say the new incentive allows for the type of hands-on learning that they strive for every day.

“We really focus on how do we get our students doing things that actually is doing it rather than just learning about it,” said Joe Vance, 8th grade science teacher at Goshen New Tech. “We can sit in the classroom and talk to them about invasive species, but to actually go out there, identify it, and then see it and then pull it makes much more impact on them.”

Vance says transportation costs are usually the biggest roadblock when it comes to getting students out into the world around them. But now the new Stormwater Education Field Trip Incentive will cover the transportation costs for students in Elkhart County to approved sites.

The incentive program is made possible by the stormwater fee collected across the county. It is will pay for the transportation to approved sites to teach students about water resources. 

Vance says when he heard about the incentive he knew immediately that he wanted to take the students to the Elkhart Environmental Center.

 “I said right away, I said I know exactly the perfect place for us to go to see exactly how we can positively impact the world around us,” he said.

The trip took nearly 250 8th grade students to the Elkhart Environmental Center. Those students were split into two groups over two days.

Jordan Beehler, a conservationist with Elkhart County Soil and Water Conservation District says the environmental center poses a unique atmosphere for a field trip.

 “We’re on the site of an old landfill,” said Beehler. “Seeing how an area like that where trash was literally being piled up is now an environmental center where there’s great things happening and great spaces to learn about our environment, that’s what makes this trip and this site really special for the kids.”

Evaluating the Elkhart River’s physical properties, the habitat inside it, and the way stormwater impacts landscapes are just a few of the topics the students tackled.  

 “We’re looking to allow kids to be good stewards of the land,” said Beehler. “So eventually we want them to become productive adult citizens and landowners that really take care of the water quality and soil health in Elkhart County.”

Students say the experience had an impact on them.

 “Every time I see a river I’ll be like hmm I wonder how fast that’s going,” said Preston Schuetz, an 8th grade student on the trip.

For teachers, the lessons learned were invaluable.

“It made a difference to them and their learning,” said Vance. “I cannot wait to get back to actually start teaching them now about human impact and have them start looking at how they can make some changes.”

Vance says he also hopes to use everything they learned at the environmental center and eventually talk to the school board about how Goshen Middle School can improve the way it handle’s stormwater.

He also highly recommends taking advantage of the Stormwater Education Field Trip Incentive.

Beehler says any schools interested in utilizing the incentive can contact her at Jordan.Beehler@in.nacdnet.net or at 574-309-2795.

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