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ACPS Students Build Bike-Powered Watering System to Nurture School Garden

George Washington Middle School students demonstrating bike-powered watering system (Photo Stella Davis).

ALEXANDRIA, VA — Today, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) celebrated a student-built bike-powered watering system for the school’s garden at an event at George Washington Middle School (GWMS). Sixth-grade STEM club students built the system under the guidance of their science and STEM teacher, Alonzo Mitchell, so that they could pump water from a rain barrel to keep their school garden healthy. Students can now water their school’s flowers and vegetables while activating their bodies and brains as they pedal the bike-powered watering system.

RunningBrooke, an Alexandria-based nonprofit, developed the idea and led the project with funding from Dominion Energy to teach students about environmental sustainability and to help them understand the positive mental and physical effects of movement. Additionally, the students are comparing the bike-powered method against solar and standard water delivery.

According to Peggy Fox, Dominion Energy’s spokesperson, “[this project] was a brilliant way to teach kids about innovation and sustainability. [We] believe this creative STEM-learning project will spark innovators of the future.”

Putting the project into action took some time, but once RunningBrooke found GWMS, with its already existing courtyard garden with easy access and an enthusiastic staff, the engineering project was underway.

George Washington Middle School students explaining the mechanics of the project (Photo Stella Davis).

Mr. Mitchell and his 6th grade students began the project by viewing videos on how to build bicycle water pumps, but they found that adapting a water pump and a bike trainer that would pump water from a rain barrel was more challenging than they expected. After some trial and error, the students finally met their goal.

“[This project] really engaged the kids, and there was really no right way to do this. They were working like mechanical engineers and trying different ideas and different designs to find out what worked,” said Mr. Mitchell. “I’m so proud of my students for their hard work and determination. They’ve learned so much about problem solving and teamwork – not to mention the science lessons that go along with watering a garden by pedaling a bicycle.”

To keep the project running smoothly, RunningBrooke will continue to provide support over the next couple of years to Mr. Mitchell and his students.

“It’s all about moving to learn,” said Brooke Curran, president and CEO of RunningBrooke. “We were thrilled to work with [Dominion] and the mechanics and Mitchell and all the kids here to make this happen.”

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