Calhoun High School was among three schools on Long Island that received a financial grant from the Long Island Regional Planning Council as part of the 2021 Long Island Water Quality STEAM Challenge, a competition that encourages students to design and develop projects aimed at reducing rainfall runoff and nitrogen. pollution on school grounds.

The Long Island Water Quality Challenge was first offered in 2019 to all schools in Nassau and Suffolk counties with an invitation to design methods to collect and treat runoff from school property. The Long Island Regional Planning Board includes experienced public and private sector leaders in business, environment, transportation, and planning.

Calhoun High School, New Hyde Park Memorial High School and Commack High School each received grants of $2,500. Calhoun seniors Kamila Agudelo, Rose Cepeda, Rachel Macnamara and Julie Moehringer have designed a rain garden that includes native plants to help filter pollutants or excess nutrients from runoff water before it enters the surface watercourses or recharge to groundwater. Their teacher, Jennifer Pefanis, explained the work done by the students to develop their project

“The team sought to propose solutions to help improve the water quality of the region and met with the gardeners of the school. They consulted with local engineers to help find ways to contain runoff through the use of this rain garden,” Pefanis said. “The green gardens will be native plants and adapted vegetation, which will be designed and placed here in this courtyard, where we will innovate today to help recreate the natural water cycle and allow stormwater to flow through. seep into the ground. Replacing groundwater will be beneficial. This small action will ultimately reduce pollutants that would otherwise need to be treated. The garden will provide a natural habitat for birds and butterflies and serve as a permanent classroom for students in the years to come.

“At a time in world history when the discussion about future drinking water sources is perhaps more important than at any time in the past century, the STEAM Challenge created by the Long Island Regional Planning Council has enabled our students to work on an authentic project in a field in which they have a natural interest because they understand that it can affect their future,” added Scott Bersin, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “We are extremely proud of the work done by Jennifer Pefanis and the students involved in the rain garden project at Calhoun.”

Superintendent Michael Harrington spoke about the journey involved in participating in a scientific research project. “It’s not just about awards,” he said. “What you’ve done here at Calhoun, the legacy you leave, in addition to helping the environment – is more than any accolade.”

Winners of the 2022 scholarships will be announced by the LIRPC panel, and a new set of applicants will be invited later this year for the 2023 awards.

“It is essential that students today recognize the challenges our region faces in protecting the quality of our water systems and schools participating in the 2021 STEAM Water Quality Challenge have implemented a active and ongoing outdoor classroom for all students, present and future, to learn and reflect on this important issue,” said LIRPC President John Cameron.

Nassau County Legislator Steve Rhoads noted the importance of the Bay Park transportation project and how the student’s rain garden will have a similar impact on a smaller scale and presented students with citations and thanked them. for their contribution to the Calhoun community.

“The fact that you have, on a smaller scale, done the exact same thing here is absolutely remarkable and a great tribute to the resilience of all of our students,” Rhoads said. “You look at what’s happened over the past two years and the challenges you’ve had to overcome and it’s really remarkable that you’ve not only succeeded, but excelled and excelled at the level that you have, so for winning this competition is a tribute to your resilience that will accompany you throughout your life.

The students explained why they wanted to participate in the STEAM challenge.

“We felt like it was a really pressing issue — like on Long Island — and something we wanted to address because we’re all concerned about the environment,” Moehringer said.

“We wanted to make Calhoun a better place and get it out there in every district,” Macnamara added.

Senior students will begin building the rain garden after the school year ends, which will be a lasting legacy after they graduate from Calhoun.

“It will be a good last project to get our hands dirty and finish high school,” Cepada said.