Engaging Students in Water Quality and Horticulture


The Bionomic Educational Training Center (BETC) is a workforce development training program at Southern High School that addresses water quality via stormwater retrofit design and implementation. BETC is an initiative of the Durham County Soil and Water Conservation District. Youth are educated about urban containment sources and Best Management Practices (BMPs) to improve water quality, providing opportunities to obtain livable wages for a population that otherwise may only qualify for low-paying jobs. Outcomes include:

  • educating youth for green-infrastructure careers

  • establishing a successful agribusiness, and;

  • implementing a Stormwater Bioretention Area and Water Reuse Pond, saving tens of thousands of dollars in conserved water while reducing nutrients entering the Falls Lake reservoir

In the summer of 2015, the City, County and Durham Public Schools jointly funded a summer pilot program that employed three teachers and nine students for six weeks at a cost of $27,000. Students worked in the community on 27 school campuses to maintain trees as part of a sustainability initiative, Trees Across Durham, as well as care for vegetable gardens on the school’s campuses.

Since its inception, the Southern BETC program has resulted in the installation of 21 rain gardens, one riparian buffer and one critical area planting for Durham landowners, earning approximately $11,000 through plant sales. This funding helps to sustain the program and to provide students with community service hours that they need in order to graduate. The program also gives students a chance to put their hands in the soil and learn a new skill: gardening.

#WaterQuality #Horticulture #Students

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