Exchange program takes Philly students overseas to tackle real-world problem

A half-dozen students from Central High School were leaving for Israel Saturday to complete a water purification project.  

Mike DeNardo
May 25, 2018 - 9:30 pm
Central High School Israel Trip

Mike DeNardo | KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- A half-dozen students from Central High School are leaving for Israel Saturday to complete a water purification project.

Along with Israeli students who visited last month, the Central students have been trying to solve a real-world problem. With Flint, Michigan on their minds, they designed a filter using sand, parsley and portobello mushrooms to remove heavy metals from drinking water, says junior Mahmou Turay...
"It's not just lead," Turay said, "it's heavy metals in general like cadmium and copper."
The filter is effective -- but it's not very pretty, says junior Jenny Dong...
"We're trying to build a better prototype of our filter right now," Dong explained. "Our current model has a lot of duct tape, and we're trying to fix that."
They've been collaborating on building a natural water filtration system, says Central freshman Rachael Thornton.
"They were working with parsley and we were working with mushrooms," she said, "and we were trying to see which would work better."
It turns out they were effective together, but junior Miriam Nielsen says they had to add something.
"We wanted to maximize the amount of time the water had contact with the mushrooms.  That's why there's sand.  So that it slows down the water trickling so that it sits with the mushroom for the maximum amount of time."
Central biology teacher Joe Campbell says his students are making the world a better place.
"It was pretty ambitious for us to solve something like that," he said. "But the progress that we made and the solution that we found -- actually, it's working."

They're spending eight days in Israel with students from Amal High School who came here last month.
"Their favorite two things were Wawa - they loved Wawa," Campbell said. "And as soon as they came over they wanted to go to Walmart."
Alumni donations are covering the $20,000 cost.