Lincoln Heights Elementary Earns “Watershed Stewardship School” Award

Fuquay-Varina - For exemplary efforts during the past two years despite setbacks by COVID-19, Lincoln Heights Environmental Connections Magnet Elementary School in Fuquay-Varina has earned the  “Watershed Stewardship School Award” from their local Wake Soil and Water Conservation District. 

Watershed Stewardship Schools (WSS) is a project-based awards program that challenges every school in Wake County to take 10 actions to learn about and improve their local watershed.  Schools achieving these actions receive an engraved awards plaque and a $200 stipend to use for an outdoor classroom project or  environmental education materials. Lincoln Heights will now serve as a mentor for new schools enrolling in the program and its WSS recognition is the newest addition to the state honors and U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School recognition that Lincoln Heights has already achieved. 

Group photo of Lincoln Heights elementary staff, Soil and Water Conservation District staff and board members, and Town of Fuquay Varina Mayor. and

Pictured from left to right: Thomas Dean (Wake SWCD Board Chairman), Sheila Jones (Wake SWCD Environmental Education Specialist), Scott Lassiter (Wake SWCD Board Supervisor), Scott Gaitan (Lincoln Heights Principal), Laura Wood (Lincoln Heights Environmental Connections Integration Specialist), Jessica Currin (Lincoln Heights Magnet Coordinator), John Byrne (Fuquay-Varina Mayor)

Here are some of the outstanding actions Lincoln Heights Elementary accomplished:

  • OUTDOOR CLASSROOM:  Through intensive training, teachers learned how to effectively use the schoolyard to engage their students in hands-on learning using a mini-pond, pollinator garden, bird nesting boxes, and native trees and shrubs that provided wildlife habitat and biodiversity.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP:  Students in grade 5 researched their local Neills Creek and entered Wake District’s “We All Live in a Watershed” poster contest.  After watching “STRAWS,” a film on plastic pollution, 4th and 5th graders, made a presentation to their town board on the importance of reducing single-use plastics.  In addition, the students raised and released American Shad into the river to increase the population of this native anadromous fish.  All K-5 students saw the play “Creekside: The Journey of a Young Environmentalist” and learned about each person’s role and responsibility in making environmental stewardship a part of daily life.
  • GREEN SCHOOL LEADERSHIP:  As a model green school, Lincoln Heights Elementary is instrumental in working with the new Wake Green Schools Partnership to advance environmental literacy and sustainability at all Wake County schools in partnership with the school system.

“This was a great way to immerse our students in real-world science while making important environmental connections,” said Laura Wood, Lincoln Heights Environmental Connections Integration Specialist.  “The students worked hard on their action projects, understanding that the good things they do upstream in the Neills Creek watershed of Fuquay-Varina can help those that live downstream on our coast.  Just think if every school in Wake County did this!  What a great way to ensure clean water and help our young people become science literate, conscientious and productive citizens.” 

“We are so proud of Lincoln Heights Elementary’s accomplishments,” said Scott Lassiter, Wake District Supervisor.  “They are the first Wake County school in the Cape Fear River Basin to earn this special recognition.  Lincoln Heights is a model green school that can inspire other schools to integrate environmental education in all school subjects in the classroom, schoolyard, and local community.” 

“Lincoln Heights Elementary achieved this challenge by working closely with their community partners from the Fuquay-Varina Engineering Department, Clean Water Education Partnership, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, South Wake Conservationists, United Arts Council of Wake County, and their local Wake Soil and Water Conservation District among others,” commented Sheila Jones, Environmental Educator with Wake District.  “It’s true…it takes a village to raise a child; and an entire community to protect its watershed!”

Lincoln Heights students presenting at Fuquay Varina Town Hall
Lincoln Heights staff and students install a frog pond on campus
Lincoln Heights teachers attending UTOTES workshop

For more information about the Watershed Stewardship Schools awards program, contact Wake Soil and Water Conservation District at (919) 410-2676 or