SREL Outreach educator leads after-school program to national win


SREL Outreach educator leads after-school program to national win

The Augusta Chronicle

By Vicky L. Sutton-Jackson, Savannah River Ecology Lab

Posted Jul 23, 2019 at 4:15 PM Updated Jul 23, 2019 at 4:15 PM

A group of middle school students from the Dreams Imagination & Gift Development Program in Williston recently captured a national prize from the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, an entity of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Jasmine Coleman, Tamara Corley, Shawn Butler, Crystasia Williams, Zy’Kesia Johnson, Rayshawn James, Avery Trottie, Gabriel Hosey, Ivan Jamison and Namair Anderson received medals and additional prizes for winning the AFBFA’s spring Purple Plow Challenge: Protect the Pollinators.

Amanda Hurst, the outreach educator for UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, coached the students, known as Team Marigold, to win the competition that rewards students for finding ways to protect pollinators.

The students chose marigold as their team name after they distributed the flower to educate the local community about pollinators, including bees, butterflies and mosquitoes.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, many pollinators are threatened or endangered.

SREL began conducting pollinator education at the non-profit at the invitation of Barnwell native Shelby Broomfield, DIG’S director. Hurst said she was teaching the students about pollinators when she discovered the competition.

“The students decided to address what they could to improve the well-being of pollinators,” Hurst said. “They hypothesized that natural pesticides would act as a pest repellent allowing the pollinators time to work.”

The team planted several tomato plants and created a natural pesticide to protect them from insects and mold. They left one plant untreated while they treated another tomato plant with a chemical pesticide.

Hurst said the team quickly noticed the chemically-treated plant grew much slower than the other plants.

According to Alix Ambriz, education specialist for AFBFA, the team’s approach caught their attention.

“Team Marigold had an innovative approach to saving the pollinators by using natural pesticides,” said Ambriz. “In the agriculture industry, we are always looking for better ways to produce a safe and healthy food supply, and Team Marigold is doing their part in helping us on this mission.”

According to AFBFA’s website, the global decline of pollinator populations poses a threat to food production.

Ambriz reports the Purple Plow Challenge was developed to educate middle and high school students on the important role pollinators play in our daily lives and to develop ways to protect the population.

In addition to the individual prizes, the program received a 3-D printer and $100 gift card.