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HomeNewsLocal news@ School: Gifft Hill Students Use Bottles to Make Wall

@ School: Gifft Hill Students Use Bottles to Make Wall

 front row from left, Embaye Brathwaite, Sky D’Abbraccio, Raynesha Noel, Noah Gessner; back row, Safa Monsanto and Naima Krigger.It took a lot of hard work, but Gifft Hill School students transformed an unusable area at the lower school into an attractive garden, and used up about 1,500 glass bottles in the process by making walls out of bottles and mortar.

“It was fun stacking bottles – until they fell over on my foot,” Safa Monsanto, 10, said.

The bottle walls at Gifft Hill’s lower school were constructed as part of the school’s EARTH program. There are also similar walls at the school’s upper school campus.

“The objective was reuse and recycle,” Iowa State professor Dave Minner said.

EARTH stands for Education and Resiliency Through Horticulture, and it teaches the students awareness and appreciation of their food’s origins. The program is a partnership between Iowa State University and Gifft Hill, with Minner currently in charge of the program at Gifft Hill.

The students in grades kindergarten through eight have an EARTH program class once a week.

The bottle wall program was funded through a $5,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant.

Minner said the program counts Island Green Living Association as a partner, and got some materials from the organization’s ReSource Depot to use in the walls. It also had the help of two local masons.

At the lower school, the bottle wall project included construction of a sluiceway, or gutter as the students called it, to direct rainfall down the hillside and away from the area now transformed into gardens. According to Minner, until the sluiceway was constructed, water from Gifft Hill Road poured into the area, turning it into a wet, messy space.

The water from the sluiceway goes into a 6,000-gallon cistern that is used to water plants and flush toilets.

With a simple large piece of wire shelving, the sluiceway traps sticks and grass that flow down it during heavy rainfall. The sediment is trapped in a holding tank at the end. The sediment gets shoveled out for use in the gardens.

“It teaches the kids about sediment,” Minner said.

Noah Gessner, 11, said the “gutter” had another purpose.

“It stops erosion,” he said.

Minner said building the bottle walls taught the students construction skills and the use of tools.

Mixing the mortar for the bottle wall construction got a thumbs up from most of the students even though some like Sky D’Abbraccio, 11, found it hard work.

However, Embaye Brathwaite, 11, wasn’t too keen on the part that came afterward.

“When we had to put our hands in,” she said, referring to the handprints that adorn the top of the wall.

At the lower school, one wall serves as a retaining wall in an area that was excavated to make more flat land for gardening. The other wall serves as one side of the sluiceway.

“And it makes a seat,” Raynesha Noel, 10, explained.

While the bottle wall project provided a learning experience for the students, it had another purpose.

“It was fun,” Naima Krigger, 10, said.

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