Ruth Anne Hanahan, Senior Research Associate with the Tennessee Water Resources Research Center (TNWRRC), coordinates a seven-member CAC AmeriCorps Water Quality Team (WQT) for Knox County Stormwater Management. For the past 20 years WQT members have worked with teachers implementing Adopt-A-Watershed (AAW), a watershed-based service learning program. AAW conducts curriculum-related projects that culminate with the students conducting a service project that improves the health of their school’s watershed. AAW is currently conducted in 15 middle and high schools and annually engages 1,500 to 1,800 students.
Halls High School (HHS) has been in the AAW program since its inception. In 2002, Knox County removed four houses on 3.3 acres of land directly behind the school that experienced chronic flooding due to being in the floodplain of the North Fork of Beaver Creek. Since the land is adjacent to HHS, Knox County Stormwater gave the land to Knox County Schools to be used as an outdoor classroom for the school and the local Halls Community. A Steering Committee, facilitated by the TNWRRC, composed of teachers, students, and local community businesses and organizations created a Halls Outdoor Classroom (HOC) master plan that was approved by the Knox County School Board. The Steering Committee met monthly during the school year to provide annual HOC goals and oversee projects to expand this space’s uses both for classes as well as the community.
In December 2015, a HHS student, Cameron Greer, built a new amphitheater for the HOC as an Eagle Scout project. Teachers and administrators lamented the fact that handicapped students, particularly wheelchair bound students, could not access this new seating area. To remedy the situation, the HOC Steering Committee decided to build a walkway from the main campus to the amphitheater and use it as an AAW “real world” learning experience for HHS teacher Jeff McMurray’s Construction Trades classes. The last three weeks of school students and community members were hard at work preparing to pour a pervious concrete walkway to make the HOC ADA accessible. Pervious concrete is a mix made without sand, leaving it porous so stormwater flows through it into a rock base that holds the water while it infiltrates the soil.
Roy Arthur, TNWRRC Research Associate, was project manager for the sidewalk installation. He and others were able to get almost all the labor and materials for the project donated. Hallsdale Powell Utility District provided the excavation and stone base. The Advanced Construction Trades class built the forms with materials provided by Tindell’s Lumber Company. Harrison Concrete and Ready Mix USA provided the concrete. Alan Sparkman, Executive Director of the Tennessee Concrete Association, provided equipment and oversight for the installation. Alan spoke with Mr. McMurray’s class about pervious concrete, showing how it functions and benefits the Beaver Creek Watershed. The class, along with the AmeriCorps WQT members, installed the sidewalk.
Three-hundred feet of pervious concrete sidewalk now connect the high school to this multi-use outdoor learning space. Next year handicapped students will be able to access the HOC and the amphitheater for the first time. Plans for 2016/17 are to build handicapped-accessible raised beds. This $10,000 project was the result of building community relationships through the HHS AAW Program.