Rain Garden at School

2019, Sacramento, California, USAgarden

After learning about issues related to urban storm water runoff, Suad Abdan and Elizabeth Meads spent time researching ways to address this concern is their local watershed. They learned that a well-placed rain garden can serve to help “slow the flow” of runoff, to help water infiltrate into the soil and recharge groundwater, as well as provide habitat and food for insects and wildlife. They also liked the idea of creating something aesthetically pleasing that had so many environmental benefits.

Suad and Elizabeth spent time during the winter surveying their campus for an appropriate location for a rain garden. They chose a low spot where water seemed to drain to from the campus right before the water would flow onto the road and into the storm drain.

They chose a variety of plants that develop deep root systems, were able to tolerate seasonal inundation with water, but also survive dry periods. While their garden was relatively small, both girls learned a lot about the design and process of installing these rain gardens and how they can serve as tools to reduce storm water runoff.

rain garden

student action

Their demonstration project will be a learning tool for the garden class at George Washington Carver High School, who will monitor the garden to see how it is performing after the plants have established and grown over the next year. Caring for Our Watersheds funds help purchase plants and mulch for the garden.

Watershed-Themed Children’s Book

children's book student action photo2019, West Sacramento, California, USA

River City High School student Sonya Shifrin has a passion for the environment and the arts. For her Caring for Our Watersheds project, she chose to combine her artistic talents and her enthusiasm for natural resource stewardship to create a watershed-themed book for children.

Sonya, who was a finalist in the 2018 Caring for Our Watersheds competition, created watercolor illustrations for each page of her book, which introduces watershed concepts and encourages students to care for their local watershed with examples of what they can do in their daily lives to make a difference.  With funding from Nutrien, Sonya was able to print copies of her book and donate them to each of the elementary school libraries in the Washington Unified School District.

watershed childrens book example watershed childrens book example

Canyon Creek Trail Clean-Up

Trail clean-up group photo

2019, Auburn, California, USA

MET Sacramento High School student Faith Smitham was concerned with all the trash she saw along one of the most popular trails in the Auburn State Recreation Area, the Canyon Creek Trail. For her Caring for Our Watersheds project, Faith organized a clean-up of the trail and creek area, including the trailhead and parking area, where much trash is found.

On Saturday, May 11, Faith and her small group of volunteers spend around 4 hours cleaning up the trail, and talking to other visitors about her project. 

garbage clean up

As a result, several hikers actually joined in their clean-up efforts, contributing to the success of the day!  Faith also gathered data on the different types of trash they collected (plastic bottles were the most numerous) and planned to share this with park rangers, in case it may inform future signage, management, and the prevention of littering and pollution in this beautiful area.

Watershed Science Trip

2019, Sacramento, California, USA

Watershed Science Trip Student Photo

MET Sacramento student Simon Downes-Toney knows how a field trip can solidify and enhance classroom learning about watershed issues and also get students excited about science. As this was one of the largest snow-years on record, it presented an excellent opportunity to learn about the snowpack that is critical to California’s water supply.

Measuring snow depth and density at levels in the snowpit

Measuring snow depth and density at levels in the snowpit

Simon organized a trip to Claire Tappan Lodge, where students measured snow temperature and density at different levels within the snowpack, snow purity at different field locations, and graphed and analyzed their data. Simon’s proposal and funding from Nutrien allowed for more students to attend the trip and learn about how scientists track, study, and predict water supply with this critical resource.

Building a Compost Bench

compost bench construction 2019, Sacramento, California, USA

As a student at The MET Sacramento High School, Shamar Russell spends part of his week at an internship in the community. Shamar interns at the Creative Connections Arts Academy (CCAA), where two needs he saw in the garden area sparked an idea for his Caring for Our Watersheds project.

Shamar wanted to teach the children of CCAA about composting, but there was not a good space to build a 3-section compost bin. There was also a need for seating for a teaching space in the garden area.

compost bench

Shamar decided on a project that would fulfill both needs: a compost bench! While the bench has a smaller capacity for composting garden waste, it still can be used as a focal point to teach about composting to the students. It also serves as a place where students can sit for a lesson in the garden or where students and teachers can rest after planting, weeding, or harvesting.

The current design allows for a potential worm bin, or the bottom can be removed if ground contact is desired for more traditional composting. Signage will be included to point out this unique new feature of the garden space at CCAA. Caring for Our Watersheds funding helped Shamar purchase lumber and hardware to build the bench.


2019, Sacramento, California, USA

Kevin Alvarez-Vazquez, a student at the MET Sacramento, was concerned about the amount of food waste from his school that ends up in landfills. Food waste that decomposes in landfills releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide. Kevin knew that traditional outdoor composting can convert food waste into nutrient rich soil, but he wanted to demonstrate an alternative that can be done indoors or outdoors, vermicomposting.

Kevin built a worm bin with special adjustments for indoor use, as he did not want extremities of weather to cause worms to die and needed maintenance to be an easy, regular part of the school day.

Kevin plans to educate advisory groups at his school and to create a flyer, with a “how to” diagram and materials list on one side and information about the benefits of vermicomposting on the other. Caring for Our Watersheds funding helped purchase materials and worms for the bin.

A Vertical Garden for Pollinators

pollinator garden2019, Sacramento, California, USA

MET Sacramento student Isa Sheikh is an officer and active member of the Garden club. As such, he is always looking for ways to improve and extend the garden as well as expand its environmental benefit. As most of the raised beds in the garden area are used to produce vegetables and/ or fruit, Isa wanted to find space to add a pollinator garden, which would attract native pollinators and provide nectar sources for them during other parts of the year.

vertical pollinator gardenIsa identified some narrow spaces on campus that were suitable and got approval to plant, but realized he could most efficiently use the space by adding a vertical element to his pollinator garden.  By trellising some common pollinator friendly plants, he not only provided habitat, but also added to the aesthetics of his school campus—and hopefully will increase the productivity of the garden as well!

Engaging Students in Recycling Through Art

student presesntation of recycling bins2019, Sacramento, California, USA

When MET Sacramento student Naam-Thaan (Angel) Ketphanh noticed that trash cans in each of her classes were filled with both trash and many recyclable items such as plastic bottles and aluminum cans, she realized her school did not have an effective recycling program. Angel was determined to make a change and came up with a plan to improve recycling at school.

recycling binAngel first purchased blue recycling bins for each advisory classroom. Knowing that just placing the bin in class would not necessarily increase awareness and improve recycling habits, Angel decided to engage students with an art contest. Students from each advisory would decorate bins using colored sharpie pens and the winning advisory would get a pizza party. Her contest would bring awareness to the new bins and Angel could encourage use through reminding students what they could and should recycle. Angel also plans on collecting money for the recyclable items at a recycling center, which would supplement advisory budgets for special student events.

Water Filtration on Campus

2019, Sacramento, California, USA

Alayne Voss and Rachel Lipetti, students at George Washington Carver School of Arts and Sciences, were concerned about the amount of plastic waste on campus, especially that of single- use plastic water bottles. Their original proposal called for a hydration station to be installed in the lobby by the office at school.

When they were unable to get approval from the district for that location, they proposed a new plan so students could have access to filtered water to fill their reusable water bottles. Alayne and Rachel installed filters on faucets in each of the science classes at school, which are equipped with sinks. Even though they hit a roadblock with their original plan, during the implementation of their project, they realized that having several locations would actually serve the student body better. Funding from Caring for Our Watersheds helped to purchase the filtration systems and replacement filters for the units

Reducing Plastic Waste at School

2019, Sacramento, California, USA

Rachel Freidberg and Barcelona Boyd, students of George Washington Carver High School, knew they wanted to focus on reducing single-use plastic waste for their Caring for Our Watersheds project. Besides the ubiquitous plastic water bottles, another source of plastic waste was coming from the school cafeteria: the spork packet. When looking closer at spork packet use, they found that many of students that took a spork packet did so only because they needed the napkin inside! Thus, there was plastic waste created without it even being used! They knew there was a better way.

Rachel and Barcelona wanted to replace the plastic utensils with reusable silverware and make separate napkins available to students. A main challenge to their proposed project was the fact that the school did not have a dishwasher to sanitize the silverware. However, they did not let this stop them! They developed a pilot project, using Dept. of Health standards and guidelines and rotating student volunteers to wash and sanitize the silverware generated at lunchtime at their relatively small school. Rachel and Barcelona’s well-planned project and their persistence in making a difference even within the limits of school’s infrastructure and equipment helped them take fifth in the Caring for Our Watersheds Finals.