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Future Problem Solvers beautify Stroman campus

By KBell
May 23, 2011 at 12:23 a.m.

Advanced Learning Center students hold down a plastic barrel as Paul Meredith cuts a hole in it that will allow it to fill with rain water. The students, who attend all four of Victoria's middle schools, are working on "the BEAST" an environmental project for the Future Problem Solvers organization. They meet each week at Stroman Middle School, where they have pulled weeds, planted a garden and are now building a rainwater harvester.

COMMUNITY HELPThe Future Problem Solvers received the grant through the help of the city's Environmental Services Department.

They also received training from the Victoria County Master Gardener's Association, the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority and Xeriscape materials.

Zarsky Lumber Company provided materials and products for the project at wholesale.

A 25-foot weed pestering through the Stroman Middle School campus would inspire the perfect name for the Future Problem Solvers' project: BEAST.

The Future Problem Solvers, made up of eighth-graders from all four Victoria middle schools, began their Beautifying, Educating and Achieving Success Together project in November.

Since then, the 14 kids have worked on planting, installing bird baths and, of course, digging up the weeds at the Advanced Learning Center, which is housed on the Stroman Middle School campus.

"After two hours of digging up weeds, you have blisters on your hands. You just want to go home and sleep, but it was worth it," 13-year-old Anabelle Delatorre said.

Without a doubt, their hard work paid off. After a successful showing at the state competition, the Future Problem Solvers will take their BEAST project to the International Future Problem Solving Conference in Wisconsin in June.

But first, they have to finish their BEAST.

On a humid afternoon, the class was staying after school to put the finishing touches on its rainwater harvesting apparatus. Dark clouds threatened rain for the first time in months, and students were excited to see the project they'd been working on for months.

"You feel proud," Symone Williams, 14, said. "I know we're all going to end up looking at it and say, 'We did this. We came together as a team.'"

The group received a $1,000 grant from the Victoria County Groundwater Conservation District that helped fund the campus beautification.

That, along with donations from other local organizations, will help maintain the property and rainwater harvesting for future classes.

"I hope that kids in the future can learn that even if something looks impossible to fix or manage, you can do it," Symone said. "They can say, 'These kids went and did it. How about we do it?'"

It wasn't all digging and dirt for the problem solvers, though.

Their teacher, Holly McCutcheon, said the group also made coloring books related to their project, wrote papers, created presentations and made a scrapbook detailing their progress.

What resulted was a guide for the next generation of problem solvers on not only water conservation, but also on plant selection and soil preparation.

"The whole point of community problem solving is to impact your community in a positive way," Anabelle said. "I think 10 years from now, this will impact kids educationally."

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