Chelmsford High School Environmental Science Grant

CHS Environmental Science Students Secure Grant for Improved Air Quality

EcoRise grant to fund plants, outdoor space

CHELMSFORD, MA (May 24, 2021) – Chelmsford High School will receive a grant of nearly $1,500 to fund improved air quality, the result of the work of six students of the Environmental Studies class, teacher Brian Acheson announced Monday.

The six students – seniors Emma Walsh, Kristina Reynolds, Joshua Walsh, Michael DeChiara, Evan Coady and Terry McKinney – submitted three proposals to Austin, Texas-based EcoRise, an environmental education firm which empowers schools and students to improve sustainability. EcoRise awarded CHS a grant of $1,439 to fund the students’ three-pronged approach to improving its ventilation.

“I’m proud of seeing these kids accomplish this goal,” said Mr. Acheson. “They’re given a challenge and they come up with a solution to the challenges. Everyone in the class puts in a grant application and EcoRise picks few of the schools that apply. It’s great to see their plans come to fruition.”

Acheson noted this year’s grant marks the fourth straight year CHS Environmental Science students were able to secure a grant from EcoRise. Previous grants were awarded to fund water bottle refill stations, the improvement of public space as well as the development of the outdoor gardens in the Science Pond area.

As part of this year’s course curriculum, Mr. Acheson’s students evaluated the air quality in each classroom throughout the high school, with key issues concerning optimal ventilation and dust and debris. After a complete the audit of the rooms, the students discussed ways to either improve air quality or to find alternate solutions, such as outdoor learning options. In teams of two, each submitted solutions:

  • Walsh and Ms. Reynolds proposed adding at least one Ficus plant to each classroom, which cleans toxins such as formaldehyde (common in paper, plywood and synthetic fabrics), xylene (found in rubber, leather, smoke and exhaust) and toluene (found in oil, paints, cleaners, glues, inks and stain removers). “Because we are in a school where these objects and chemicals are constantly being used, it is important to filter them out of the air to provide safer air for students and teachers,” Ms. Walsh and Ms. Reynolds wrote in their proposal.
  • Walsh and Mr. DeChiara took a similar stance: adding Snake plants, which remove carbon dioxide, to each classroom. “Each plant will help clean the air by taking carbon dioxide out and creating clean air,” Mr. Walsh and Mr. DeChiara included in their proposal. “The removal of the carbon dioxide also helps decrease ground level ozone in the building, which is one of the biggest contributors towards pollution.”
  • A byproduct of the impact of Covid-19, Mr. Coady and Mr. McKinney lobbied for a designated outdoor space to encourage students to take in more fresh air. Thus, the grant will also fund a large tent, outdoor furniture, waste bins and flowers. “Throughout school, students are stuck inside the school going from class to class,” read Mr. Coady and Mr. McKinney’s proposal. “The tent would give shade to those who want to be outside, the furniture serves as seating for those outside, the trash bins to keep the area clean and the flowers for a nice welcoming touch.”

“I did see a lot more classes outside this year,” Mr. Acheson said. “The science pond area has been used a lot more this year than in the past. I think that might’ve been one of their cues about improving the air quality here at the high school.”

The awarding of the grant has proven timely: CHS students attended school two days in person and three days remote before returning full-time on Monday, May 3, due to the pandemic. The plants and outdoor space setup are expected to be in place by the fall.


About Chelmsford Public Schools

The Chelmsford Public School District provides all students with multiple pathways to optimize their own potential for academic excellence, leadership, and social and emotional wellness. The mission of the Chelmsford Public Schools is to educate, engage, prepare, and empower well-rounded and knowledgeable learners to PERSEVERE through challenges, demonstrate RESPECT and INTEGRITY in their words and actions, are DEDICATED to their community, and display EMPATHY as global citizens while discovering and pursuing their full potential.  This PRIDE-driven culture enables all members of the school community to support the growth and development of students.  For more information, please visit