York Community High School: Exploring Water Quality

  • Project Type: Path to Net Zero, Water Conservation
  • Students: 25
  • Staff: 2
  • Mentor: Chris Philbrick
  • Location: Elmhurst, IL
  • Grade Levels: High School

The Project

York Community High School's project spanned the entire school year, majority-led by 25 students in Eco Club. They learned about water quality, did a school water audit, participated in various local events to improve water quality, and committed to educating the community about water quality.

Through a partially funded grant from last school year combined with a grant from Illinois Green Schools Project, York was able to purchase a water bottle refill station in a high traffic area at school. This will curb the use of single use plastic. Moreover, as a club, they purchased reusable metal bottles in bulk to share with students who expressed that they didn't have one and were purchasing single use plastic bottles instead.

Project Goals:

  • Learn about water quality and complete a water audit of the school.
  • Take knowledge of water quality and school's strengths/weaknesses to plan some projects to improve water quality.
  • Educate the local community about water quality.
York Pumpkin Smash Event

The Process:

  • August 2022: The York Eco Club convened to discuss the biggest problem at the school and identified single use plastic water bottles as the priority. This led to a larger conversation about water quality.
  • September 2022: Students met with Kay McKeen, the founder of SCARCE (a local environmental organization), to learn about steps to earn the water quality flag for our school.
  • October 2022: Met with Chris Philbrick, our mentor and outlined some projects the students wanted to tackle to educate on water quality.
  • October 15, 2022: As a club, they worked together to clean up the local Elmhurst Prairie Path. They learned about native grasses and invasive species and their contributions to water quality.
  • November 2022: We partnered with SCARCE to run a pumpkin smash event in our town. We smashed over 1,000 pumpkins and learned that pumpkins are mostly water and leak greenhouse gases into the soil and water if sitting in landfills. We composted the pumpkins we smashed.
    November 2022-April 2023: Students posted weekly 'water quality tips' on the Instagram page to educate students and community members on how they can improve the local water quality.
  • November 2022-April 2023: They participated in the Trex Soft Plastic Recycling Challenge and properly recycled over 7,000 lbs of plastic. During the process, they learned about microplastics and their effect on water quality.
  • January 2023: York earned a grant from the Illinois Green Schools Project to combine with a previous grant to purchase a water bottle filling station. Students partnered with the building manager to identify a high traffic place to put the water fountain, which will be installed soon!
  • February 2023: Club members met with mentor Chris Philbrick to complete a water audit of the school. Students recorded their results and debriefed as a club.
  • March 2023: The Eco Club identified several students without a reusable water bottle, and purchased some in bulk to share with students to curb the use of single-use plastics at school.
  • April 18, 2023: 7 groups from the school competed in SCARCE's Sustainable Design challenge, using their newfound knowledge of water quality to create sustainable buildings.
  • April 20, 2023: York partnered with Elmhurst Cleanup Give Back to do a cleanup of trash around the school. They shared their knowledge of plastics/garbage and their effects on water quality if not properly disposed of.

Grace Holistic's Illinois Green Schools Project mini grant was generously supported by Humanscale.