A group of teens is helping to ensure a local waterway remains healthy.
"The history of Butler Creek is anything but healthy," said Ruth Mead, an education specialist with the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy who leads a group of teens called the Creek Freaks.
Once a month through the Adopt-A-Stream program, the teens perform chemical and biological monitoring of Butler Creek in south Richmond County. The creek has made a comeback and is considered healthy.
"It's a great feeling; our creek is a good creek," Mead said.
The Creek Freaks, which began in August 2003, also help with restoration efforts. Once a quarter, the teens spend a Saturday catching macro-invertebrates in the part of the creek at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park.
For their efforts, the teens have earned the club two national awards, including the President's Environmental Youth Award. Club members will travel to Washington, D.C., next month to receive the award.
About a dozen teens participate with the group.
"Taking care of the environment - I think that's important," said John Hughes, a 17-year-old home-schooled student from Augusta who has been in the group since it started.
Each month, the students collect water samples from the creek and test for dissolved oxygen levels, temperature, pH levels and other criteria. The data are then sent to the state. The Adopt-A-Stream program is under the auspices of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division.
Not only do the students learn about ecology, but there is biology and some advanced chemistry involved.
Allegra Yeley, a John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School junior, said the group is helping her build a foundation for her chosen career.
"I want to study environmental law," she said. "I'm passionate about the environment. I don't think we've taken enough care of it."
An eighth-grader at Lakeside Middle School, Madeline Wible is one of the younger members of the group. She, too, wants to make an impact on the environment.
"I feel like I'm helping in my community. I want to make it better and get people to volunteer in the community," she said.
The Creek Freaks meet the third Tuesday of the month at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park.
The Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy offers three additional clubs to elementary and middle school students to pique their interest in science.
The Cattail Kids Club is for children in kindergarten through second grade, the Gator Gang is for third- through fifth-grade students, and the Muskrateers is for sixth- through eighth-graders. All three introduce students to a variety of science learning activities.
For more information about any of the clubs, call 828-2109 or visit www.phinizyswamp.org/Edu_kidsclub.htm.
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