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NKC Schools students partner with KC Water to combat algae problem

sage algae project.png
Posted at 4:53 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 19:42:16-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Seventh graders from North Kansas City Schools are applying skills to a real-world problem, creating an apparatus to combat algae at a small pond in the intersection of East 81st Street and Troost Avenue.

KC Water created a green space at that location years ago with the hope that it would collect storm water and purify it before the water is released into the Blue River and, ultimately, makes its way to the Missouri River.

“When we got there, it was green and the kids were like, ‘Why is this green? What is this stuff?'" said Cassie Fogel, an NKC Schools teacher at the Students in Academically Gifted Education SAGE Center.

She said it was a question that kick-started everything and led to a scholastic solution for a real-life problem.

Berkeley Clausen, one of the SAGE students spearheading the project, said the pond has been struggling to keep itself clean.

“So we were looking up ways to solve it, and we found something called the floating wetland,” Clausen said. “We really liked that idea so we just ran with it."

Fertilizers, pet feces and litter from nearby homes are pouring into the pond, creating algae, and making it inhabitable for living organisms.

“The floating wetland — it is kind of like a raft and has holes in it, which is usually not a good thing," Clausen said, "but we stick plants in the holes, roots grow down and they suck up all the algae in the water and replace it with oxygen for the water life."

After months of trial and error, the students finally put their product to use. Engineers with KC Water partnered with the school district for guidance along the way. Clausen said his peers and he will continue to follow up with the project and think of ways to apply the concept on a larger scale.

“I don’t know that we could do it, but that is a project that would be very easy to replicate," he said.

Fogel said she hopes her seventh graders will act as mentors for the incoming class next year.

“Once they move on, they will always have some sort of piece of them in that project,” she said.