MILLSTONE – With new resources created and a first place finish at a state competition, pupils from the Millstone Township K-8 School District are continuing their project to spread awareness of an invasive plant species.
A group of pupils at the Millstone Township Middle School and the Millstone Township Elementary School who call themselves the Phearless Phragmites Phighters have created an online teacher’s resource kit to help teachers instruct students about the dangers of Phragmites australis, an invasive plant species.
The resource kit can be found at phragkit4teachers.weebly.com
Phragmites australis, according to teacher and club adviser Beth Topinka, can reach 18 feet in height. The plant grows in thick patches with dense root systems that spread and push out native plants and animals.
The plant is difficult to remove once it has become established in an area. It harms diversity in ecosystems, does not provide a food source for native animals, interferes with marsh food webs, affects the supply of water needed by plants and animals, and produces seed tops that can bother individuals with grass allergies, according to Topinka.
The members of the team are Kyra Ahuja, Ethan Bailey, Ryan Bailey, Nate Benjamin, Rafferty Burden, James Chen, Anna DePinho, Brendan DeRose, Mahi Desai, Charlie Duffy, Max Glantzberg, Rachel Glantzberg, Evangeline Huey, Thomas Maltese, Alexey Nekrasov and Jai Patel.
In 2016 and 2017, the students identified locations in Millstone Township where Phragmites australis was growing. Their work was recognized by the Township Committee and the Environmental Commission. The pupils were later invited to compete in the Future Problem Solvers International Conference’s Junior Team Division for Environmental Concerns in Wisconsin, where they placed first.
For their next project, “InPhorming Phriends to Phurther Phight Phragmites,” the pupils are seeking to take their awareness campaign across New Jersey. Through research data, the pupils said they discovered that Phragmites exist throughout the entire state.
The online resource kit is part of the pupils’ ongoing project and can be used for students in kindergarten through high school. The resource kit includes an eBook, a virtual reality (VR) field trip, an engineering design challenge and station activities, according to the pupils.
The eBook, “Cornelius and Betty: A Phragmites Adventure,” is intended for younger students and the VR experience is for older students.
Anyone who wishes to speak with the pupils about the online resource kit and how other students can combat the spread of Phragmites may contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Topinka at email@example.com
The pupils placed first at the Future Problem Solving State Bowl at Kean University, Union, in March. With the victory, they will return to Wisconsin in June to once again compete in the Future Problem Solvers International Conference.