A School in Action: Creek Clean Up

We are not sure when we have seen such innovative applications of learning in the real world that not only include beautifying the school but actually impacting the community! The work that Lowe’s Grove Magnet Middle STEM School of Technology has been doing makes a normal Project-Based Learning initiative look minimal, but in essence that is exactly what administrator Dr. Tekeisha Mitchell, biotechnology teacher Coach John Ware, and his students are engaged in perfecting–facilitating PBL with “fidelity”!

With the media coverage now dwindling on the Flint, Michigan water debacle, locals are realizing their own water sources are also contaminated through either negligence, outright illegal dumping, or both–all of which impact the quality of Durham city’s drinking water.  Lowe’s Grove  has not only taken a stand against such outrageous abuses of the community’s natural resources but has also taken action!

Appropriately wearing a Fidelity Investments T-shirt, courtesy of the local investment group that has lived up to its name by investing in Lowe’s Grove’s continuous efforts to operate and thrive as one of  Durham Public Schools’ STEM Magnets, Coach Ware proudly leads the way, highlighting the progress he and his students are making in their self-initiated environmental protection acts.


You won’t believe what students pulled from the creek running behind the Vikings’ homestead:


A wooden pallet, discarded planks, a tire, a metal folding chair…


A shopping cart…


What appears to be old carpet and padding amongst other miscellaneous rubbish…


Including many a beer can and…


A tangled mass of rusted wires, an assortment of poles, and mounds and mounds of orange plastic net fencing.

business fine

 Much of the creek’s unfortunate littering can still be seen, but the city has subsequently levied heavy fines on the business located across the creek and on the other side of the fence for its participation in the creek’s contamination.


And although there is more wire  to pull out and much more of that orange plastic fence mired deep in the creekbed still to be dug and drug, the students have made considerable progress in more ways than one.


Students have constructed makeshift bridges to make accessing the creek easier and albeit a bit more fun!

stepsThe groundwork students are laying for environmental restoration is both obvious and beautiful. With handmade steps leading to the creek, cleared pathways reveal the treasure that is the school’s backyard:


tree-9Arbor Day celebrations will highlight this 200-plus year old tree (pictured above) as students remain engaged in classifying nature’s handiwork through consistent plant identification:


Their property boasts some grand secrets as well. Nestled back in the thicket rests an old tobacco barn:



Untold history lies within this failing structure, and we are hopeful that social studies teachers find this relic, which is so close to home, a source for further research.

 Furthermore, Coach Ware and his students are seeing the immediate impact of their cultivation efforts as now many birds, frogs, dragonflies, and  other wildlife find sanctum in and near clearer running waters.



Ware and his students are currently working hard to create a welcoming habitat that will attract king butterflies, known as Monarchs.


Future lesson plans for countless scores of  future Vikings practically write themselves when considering the long-term commitment to not just expanding the project’s scope but simply maintaining the massive work current classes have already begun.


We have goosebumps when we think about the power of this kind of learning–and so does Coach Ware! He reached out and showed us the tiny raised prickles on his arm. There is a magical glint in his eyes akin to a sparkle  when he describes their progress and outlines the project’s future goals.   Ware’s long tenure at Lowe’s Grove is displayed in his pride for his students, in his love for his school, and through his conscientious concern for his community’s commonwealth.  The exemplary work in which  administrators and teachers are actively engaged approaches learning in the most practical of ways.  They are proving that educational institutions can still thrive in an economy where textbooks are aging,  standardized tests are raging, and finances are fading. They have learned the potential of earning the support of community and business partnerships (e.g., Fidelity Investment Group). They demonstrate the importance of making the most of resources readily available and freely given by simply taking care of them, and the lessons learned are lifelong and limitless for both adolescents and adults.

 We highly applaud the industrious work of the Lowe’s Grove students, the unwavering support of their administrator Dr. Tekeisha Mitchell, and the extraordinary vision of Coach John Ware.


Learn more about Lowe’s Grove.

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