Volkswagen preserves the marshy land adjacent to the Chattanooga plant as part of the corporationwide Think Blue initiative through which the company wishes to lead by example in making it possible for industry and natural environments to coexist peacefully.
Thanks in part to grants for the advancement of STEM areas — science, technology, engineering and math — in the school, Bachman’s academic coordinator Sarah Wolverton began planning the week of science-related activities and had the idea to visit the Volkswagen wetlands.
As environmental specialists for the Chattanooga plant and Wolverton discussed the possibility of touring the area, Wolverton mentioned Bachman Academy’s service-learning initiative and asked if there was anything the students could help with in the wetlands area.
Environmental specialist Kaye Fiorello explained they were looking to assemble birdhouses for the area to attract different kinds of birds and build up the wetlands.
Since one of Bachman Academy’s many programs is a woodworking shop, Wolverton immediately saw a way to help the Volkswagen environmental specialists and engage her students in service and leadership while learning about science.
“We try to give the students opportunities to be leaders in a safe environment,” Wolverton said.
The woodworking students at Bachman will lead their peers in learning how to assemble the different birdhouses, and the students will place the birdhouses in the wetlands area when they visit at the end of the week.
Fiorello said that environmental specialists have studied the wildlife in the marsh area and determined that approximately 65 different types of birds are on the site and have provided the plans for building different birdhouses.
“The kids have to understand the balance,” Fiorello said, adding that students will learn about the birds for which they are building houses as well as the other components of the food chain in the wetlands.
“[Bachman students] are hands-on visual learners,” said Anne Cadle, Bachman Academy’s development coordinator. Cadle and Wolverton are planning a variety of activities leading up to the trip to the wetlands so that students understand how important this type of ecosystem is as well as the effects their birdhouses will have on the area.
The Chattanooga plant has done many other things to “build the building around the environment,” Fiorello said, including powering up an 80-acre solar park as part of the Think Blue initiative, the largest solar park in Tennessee.
Bachman students will also have the opportunity to see the array of solar panels from afar and interact with a model explaining how the solar park generates electricity during their visit to the plant site.
Volkswagen will also be providing the materials to build the birdhouses by recycling pallets from the plant for the project.
Students will be building the houses on April 3 during science week at the school, then will travel to Volkswagen on April 5 to visit the wetlands.
Bachman Academy is a private boarding and day school located in McDonald. The school serves students with learning differences in grades 6 through 12.