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Student-built waterfall, eco-system debuts at FHS

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but the Farragut High School waterfall sure was. With professional assistance, the triangularly-shaped waterfall/mini eco-system — about 30 feet long on all sides and located on the eastern-most portion of the campus on a hill near the vocational school — was primarily built by 33 FHS students June 7.

Taking a little more than eight hours to build, the students were joined by a handful of faculty, administrators, parents, alumni and landscaping and aquatic garden experts to complete the new and rare campus attraction.

“They [the students] did on-hand training while they were building, they were instructing it as a class,” said Susan Davidson, a student affairs secretary at FHS who helped coordinate the waterfall effort.

“I was told [June 7] was National Build a Pond Day. Joyce Montgomery, the owner [of Aquatic Gardens design and build firm], told me that, and they wanted to donate and have Farragut High School be one of the first to have it.

“They started about nine-o’clock and finished about five-fifteen,” Davidson added.” And there’s over six tons of rocks in it, and there’s four yards of mulch.”

As for working with the students, Montgomery said, “They were terrific, they actually designed this. We brought them out and gave ’em a rope, and they made the shape the way they wanted. We, of course, used the natural hillside. And then, with the assistance of my experienced pond crew … they directed it and the kids dug it and they lined it and they rocked it and they turned it on.”

Montgomery said the water supply “comes from a hose from the school and it’s recirculated. … it’s got a pump in it to recycle the water up to the waterfall. … And the waterfall comes down into the pond.

“This is an eco-system, which is different than just a pond, you have to have all the elements of nature,” Montgomery added. “You have to have plants and fish and aeration and filtration, and rocks for the bacteria to grow on.”

The waterfall also includes what Montgomery called a “skimmer net to catch the big debris.”

Debbie Fraser, a chemistry and marine ecology teacher at FHS, said the waterfall brings ecological concerns “right close to home,” adding, “the kids can come out on their campus and we can look at an eco-system and interaction with the land, possibilities of pollution and what can influence the water quality.

“They can take samples of the water and test it chemically for excess nutrients, and talk about the impacts of that,” Fraser added. “They can look at the living diversity that’s in water. ... I think there’s a lot of good learning experiences from having this kind of facility at the school.”

As for plants, “Everything we’ve planted on the outside, and some on the inside of the water, are perennials,” Mont-gomery said. “The ones that are in the water, the hyacinth with the purple flowers, are floaters, they’re annuals. They provide oxygenation for the fish, and the fish provide nutrition for the plants.”

Michael Reynolds, FHS principal, praised the effort behind the waterfall while labeling the completed project “really nice.” He adding the school had to “clear legal hurdles” to make it possible.

Reynolds said he wants to remove a small collection of cedar trees near the waterfall next to the eastern most portion of FHS classrooms.

Fraser said Davidson first made her aware of the possibility of a campus waterfall, “and she was the person behind it.”

Charlie Broster with Smith Turf & Irrigation, Lexington Ave., Knoxville, said his company donated “materials” to Aqua Gardens, “who, in turn, donated it to the high school.”

Among others donating was Two Rivers Church, “who were kind enough to donate a full dump truck load of topsoil,” Davidson said.

FHS faculty and administrators also assisting were Jane Skinner, a lab and technology coordinator in the science department, Alice Thornton, an ecology teacher at FHS, and Kristin Baksa, a chemistry teacher at FHS.

Alumni returning to help included 2004 FHS graduates and UT students Nick Montgomery and Charlie Fethe.


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