Trinity students dive into water project

Fifth graders at Trinity School collect and study specimens from a creek located on the school's Buckhead campus.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Fifth graders at Trinity School collect and study specimens from a creek located on the school's Buckhead campus.

A 26-year-old program that began as a way to reinforce environmental science lessons has long captured the imagination of students at Trinity School in Buckhead. But it’s grown beyond basic lessons to include charitable fundraising and a sharpened awareness of what’s happening beyond the school’s backyard.

River Kids launched in 1996 to teach lessons around the Peachtree Creek ecosystem. Each month, students went off campus to conduct water evaluations and report their findings. When the school moved about 3 miles north to its present location off Northside Parkway, students found an offshoot of the Chattahoochee River on the grounds where they could expand their explorations.

“It’s right on our property, so studying it is so easy to do,” said fifth grade science teacher Becky Maas. “When I came here nine years ago, I inherited the program around it, and I love that it’s so hands-on and directly pertinent to what we teach.”

Maas’ students perform a range of chemical and biological tests at the creek each month and compare their findings around pH balances, nitrate concentrations, temperature, dissolved oxygen levels and more.

“Students are applying what they’re learning in the classroom to think about what’s normal, what it means for our creek, how’s it different from last month,” she said. “And they love it.”

Griggs Mealor, 11, first heard about River Kids when he was in fourth grade. “Before that, I didn’t know a lot about it, but by the end of the year, people started talking about it, and I got excited. I knew the creek was there and had been down there a few times with my friends, but I’d never thought about testing or discovering things in it.”

This year, Mealor and about 75 of his classmates have looked at how pollution impacts the creek’s water quality and the lifeforms it supports.

“I had multiple jobs for the testing, and all of them were so fun and cool,” said Mealor. “I love discovering new things as we test the creek.”

Mealor is also happy that the class’ fundraising efforts go to support clean water initiatives in other parts of the world. Students began with a walk-a-thon three years ago and now also host a Freshwater Fair that raises funds to send water filters to places such as Haiti and Kenya. This year, students walked 278 miles on the school track and raised $18,200. The fair featured games around the students’ research on freshwater creatures and collected $1,200. With the funds, students sent 485 water filters to Kenya that will provide 485 families with safe drinking water for 10 years.

“I show them pictures of kids in Kenya who have to walk to get their water, so the walk-a-thon is based on the idea that you have to walk to earn the money,” said Maas. “It’s eye-opening, and it really motivates them. At the same time, it helps them get a more global perspective of water and its use, and how much we take it for granted.”

Information about Trinity School is online at

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at or 770-744-3042.