Students win big money studying road salt runoff

Posted at 6:14 PM, Jan 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-29 21:18:39-05

KENOSHA -- Ever wonder where all that road salt goes? A Kenosha middle school's research project has made it to the finals for the "Samsung Solve for Tomorrow" contest.

Some pretty impressive 7th graders have already taken the title to represent Wisconsin schools in the contest. For that, they're guaranteed $20,000 in technology for their classrooms.

These junior high students are hoping to make a difference.

"I wanted to get into this program because I wanted to help the community," said Darrion Allen, 7th grader.

Allen is among dozens taking time out of their regular classes to try to find out how road salt affects the environment. Students grew bean plants, adding different concentrations of salt to each.

"And then we looked at them after a day to see which one lived and basically the one that was a no-salt lived and the rest of them slowly started dying," said Kim Bielewicz, 7th grade science teacher.

Four weeks later, they're encouraging their own families to stop salting sidewalks and driveways.

"And then like my mom used the whole pack so I told her to stop using it and she said she would stop using it," said Jalexus McGough, 7th grader.

Student teacher Lisa Anderson took us across the street. As students learned, salt creeps into the pond there, and that was their motivation to keep going.

"They are a little passionate because they want to protect their park and their area. It's kind of like home to them," said Lisa Anderson, the student teacher who got the students started on this contest.

A Kenosha alderman reached out to the school after hearing what students did at this park. He plans to meet with them. Could that change the way Kenosha treats its roads for snow? That remains to be seen.