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Posted: November 8, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Project Green SWEEPs Newton High

A grant received by Newton High School to improve student interest and achievement in math and sciences over the summer is being put to good use at the of the school’s new wetland project. The groundbreaking and ribbon cutting ceremony for the new science lab was last Thursday.

Called Project Green SWEEP, the wetlands will be centered around NHS but will benefit all of the county, according to NHS science teacher Kia James. Located on 51-acres that borders the Yellow River, the high school has several outdoor facilities such as the baseball field and a livestock barn that houses animals for the school’s agricultural science class. When it rains, the run-off from the baseball field reportedly runs into a large area between the field and the barn. James said this makes it difficult for student to get to the barn because of the "muddy mess."

"Eventually this run-off results in the flow of animal waste into the river," said Lee. "The Green SWEEP project will bring all disciplines of science at NHS together to channel the flow of water from the field to an area that will become a sustainable wetland to be monitored and protected in future years by the students of Newton High School."

Newton High School received an Hewlett-Packard Innovations in Education award package of HP technology, cash and professional services valued at more than $265,000. Technologies such as wireless HP tablet PCs, wide-format HP DesignJet printers, high-power mobile workstations, mini-notebook PCs and HP graphing calculators, will be used in innovative ways to fundamentally redesign the student learning experience

The project was designed to allow students to study the flow of energy and ecological relationships in a real-world setting and James hopes that it will increase student skills in technology and scientific research as well as their environmental awareness.

"Students will measure chemical and physical variables such as temperature, pH, salinity and levels of oxygen, nitrogen and phosphates from wetland and river water," said James. "They will study and observe mammals, amphibians and microorganisms in the habitat. In periods of severe drought, a small pump will be used to divert water from the Yellow River to help sustain the wetland. The wetland will also be used as a renewable water source for the livestock barn. Students will also build a compost shed and use plant and animal debris from the barn, the river, and surrounding areas to recycle waste into compost to help sustain the wetlands and provide natural fertilizer for horticulture classes. The school has an extensive recycling program and already recycles Styrofoam plates from the cafeteria; now vegetable waste will be added to the compost. The compost will reduce water loss, increase the number of beneficial organisms in the soil, and provide a constant flow of nutrients to habitat plants," she said.

The technology will also be used for thermal expansion; thermal conductivity and heat gain/heat loss labs, as well as time related experiments such as velocity, acceleration due to gravity, sound, force and energy. The HP Tablet PCs and digital projectors will be used in all areas of science instruction, providing a tool for students to interact with other students and with their teachers as they solve problems and make formal and informal presentations. As students make notes or draw diagrams on the Tablets, they will be projected for other students to see and understand.

The more powerful HP Mobile Workstations that are available will provide increased access to the Internet for research and software such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, InspireData and AutoCAD Inventor for designing and presenting student projects. DyKnow software provided through the grant will allow for connectivity from every science classroom and computer labs, so that students can share their findings with other science students. Biology students might share their findings related to plants and animals supported by wetland habitats, while students in the physical sciences report results of soil porosity and pH tests, and measures of temperature, salinity and chemicals in the water. The virtual training room will provide both student and teacher access to speakers from business and industry on careers and on environmental topics from college partners and other organizations, according to a press release.

According to James, the students and teachers at NHS have several goals, including increasing both students and community awareness of environmental issues being faced, increase students participation in higher or advanced science courses, provide hands-on learning activities, and open the minds of students to the numerous science based career options.

"The grant award from Hewlett Packard is just another example of the dedication and innovation of the teachers at Newton High School," said Principal Dr. Roderick Sams previously. "Our students will be experiencing real world applications through project-based learning and the advanced technology provided by HP. They will work more collaboratively to research environmental concerns and issues in order to better prepare them for tomorrow’s global workplace."

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