Tree Planting and Rain Barrels in the Community

2014 Arlington, Virginia, USA

Students in Victoria Keish’s science classes at Kenmore Middle School collaborated on a Caring for Our Watersheds project. Although their proposals did not make the finals round of the 2014 competition, two projects moved forward anyway. Since two classes had proposals relating to planting native vegetation to improve water quality in Four Mile Run, the students worked together on their Caring for Our Watersheds project, coordinating with Arlington County to organize a tree planting at the end of May in Bluemont Park, within walking distance of the school.  The second project conducted outreach to    the school community to encourage homeowners to install rain barrels on their property, and as an incentive they offered to reimburse the cost of attending a rain barrel workshop offered by Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment.

The tree planting project required no implementation funding, as the County was able to provide tree saplings and the necessary tools. The rain barrel workshop received $220 in implementation funding provided by Agrium, which reimbursed the cost for four attendees at the workshop.

Keep in Line or Pay the Fine

2014 Arlington, Virginia, USA
Eli making public comment
Kenmore Middle School students in Victoria Keish’s sixth grade science class conducted water quality testing at Four Mile Run a short distance from the school campus, and one of the problems they noted was the presence of high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the stream water. Since they understood that fecal coliform bacteria are often associated with pathogens that can harm human or animal health, they decided they wanted to work to minimize the amount of the bacteria reaching the stream.
Through their own research, they found that a major source of bacterial contamination in Arlington is pet excrement that is not picked up by pet owners. The pet waste washes into streams with stormwater during rain events. Although Arlington County has an ordinance that requires residents to pick up after their pets, the students sensed that it isn’t taken very seriously, and that the fine for violation was lower than in neighboring jurisdictions.
Their proposed solution was to petition the County Board to raise the fine from $100 to $200 per violation. Their Caring for Our Watersheds proposal, “Keep in Line or Pay the Fine,” placed third in the 2014 competition. Part of their effort was to write to the County Board requesting the fine increase and the promotion of green infrastructure. The students also prepared remarks and student Eli Ruggen spoke on behalf of the group during the public comment period of the May 2014 board meeting. Board Chair Jay Fisette thanked them for representing Kenmore and referred the request to the County Manager and staff for further consideration.

Turn Off the Lights!

2014 Arlington, Virginia, USA
Sixth-grade students learning astronomy at H-B Woodlawn Secondary program learned about the problem of light pollution and its effect on viewing the night sky, but as they researched the issue they also found that light pollution can cause harm to wildlife and plants that are important to watershed health. To help raise awareness of the problem, they wanted to ask Arlington residences and businesses to turn off or dim unnecessary lights and draw the shades for 30 minutes the night of April 26, coinciding with Arlington Earth Day and International Dark Sky Week, as well as    with the peak migration of birds over the Mid‐Atlantic region. They hoped that during that time, Arlingtonians would go outside and view the lovely dark and starry night sky.

To get the word out, the students produced flyers to promote the event, and they were able to post announcements on the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy, and ARLnow websites, as well as through their own blog site. The local National Public Radio affiliate, WAMU, featured the students and the project on their news website, as well. Quoted in the article, student Henry Hammer said, “People don’t know that it can be good to turn off the lights beyond just saving energy. It can save the lives of animals, it can reduce smog, and it helps the environment.”

H‐B Woodlawn’s “Turn Off the Lights” project was a finalist in the 2014 Caring for Our Watersheds competition in Virginia, and the students received $519 in implementation funding from Agrium, which covered printing costs for the flyers.

Edible Vegetable Garden

2014 Alexandria, Virginia, USA
students with gardening tools
Students in the Garden Club at Glasgow Middle School proposed to create a raised‐bed vegetable garden in front of the school cafeteria, to reduce the environmental impact of food choices made by students and to promote healthy eating in the school community.  Where once an unused grassy area they built was wood raised beds, planting tomato, pepper, eggplant, and other vegetables. garden

Although their Caring for Our Watersheds proposal did not make the finals round of the 2014 competition, they went ahead with the project using the school participation reward of $250  provided by Agrium to purchase materials and  seeds.


Watershed Warriors Restoring Wetlands

2014 Alexandria, Virginia, USA
Students transporting plants by canoe
Students in one of Mary Breslin’s seventh grade science classes at George Washington Middle School tested water quality in Alexandria and noted that because land in the city is so extensively developed, there are few wetlands to help filter runoff and absorb nutrients, sediment, and pollution before it reaches local waterways. They felt that a good way to improve watershed health would be to restore wetlands along the Potomac River.

The students worked with a horticulturalist from the National Park Service and the Alexandria Students planting Seaport Foundation to develop their project of raising wetland plants to be transplanted into local waterways. Their proposal took second place at the 2014 Caring for Our Watersheds competition in Virginia in April, and in mid‐June they were in the field implementing their idea. Using boats provided by the Seaport Foundation, and with guidance from National Park Service staff, they planted native wetland vegetation at Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, a tidal embayment alongside the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

Student Ana Humphrey documented the project in a short video:

Originally having budgeted $360 for the project, they covered expenses using the Caring for Our Watersheds participation reward provided by Agrium, as well as via in-kind donations.

Planting Trees to Improve Dissolved Oxygen

2014 Alexandria, Virginia, USA
students with large cheque
Seventh grade science students at George Washington Middle School tested water quality in local streams, and their results showed low dissolved oxygen, which is a threat to aquatic life. In the Chesapeake Bay, depletion of dissolved oxygen leads to extensive “dead zones” where important native species, like oysters, cannot survive. They worked with the city’s former Watershed Program Administrator and the Virginia Cooperative Extension to develop their solution to one of the causes for low dissolved oxygen. In Alexandria, storm water heats up on streets and other impervious surfaces, and the problem has worsened with loss of tree canopy to shade and cool the landscape. Improve their watershed. Their grant idea was based on the idea of planting trees along the Potomac River.

As Caring for Our Watersheds finalists, the students presented their proposal to plant trees to help 3 trees in plantersreduce the temperature of stormwater runoff, and they demonstrated additional ecosystem benefits of trees using the UDSA Forest Service’s iTree software suite. Their Dissolved Oxygen Project was the winner of the 2014 Caring for Our Watersheds contest in Virginia.

With tree saplings donated by a local native plant nursery, Earth Sangha, they planted 14 trees at the school, and as the location was far from a water source, they requested and received $840 in implementation funding from Agrium to cover a watering truck contract to keep the trees alive through the hot, dry summer. They also performed a rap to raise awareness of the importance of tree planting onstage at Alexandria’s Earth Day celebration at Ben Brenman Park.

A Rain Garden for Kenmore Middle School

2014 Arlington, Virginia, USA
Students working and finished garden
Students in Liz Castillo’s sixth grade science class were concerned that stormwater runoff from the school property contributes to erosion and the transport of pollutants that reach Four Mile Run in Arlington. One of the places they noticed runoff was from the entrance awning to the school, which drained to a bare patch of ground in a highly visible location.  The students recognized that this would be a good potential location for a rain garden, for practical and aesthetic reasons, and they knew that the previous year Kenmore students had not been able to get approval to put a rain garden on the roof. Their Caring for Our Watersheds proposal outlined their plan to make this improvement, and it was a finalist in the 2014 competition.

To implement their project, they enlisted the help of students at Washington‐Lee High School, who were able to provide some funding for rototilling through a Girl Scout Gold Award project, as well as additional muscle power to dig up the hard packed ground. Agrium provided $640 toward plants, topsoil, mulch, and gravel for the rain garden, which had an overall budget of $887.

Pond Habitat – it’s in Our Hands

2014 Fairfax, Virginia, USA
Eighth graders at Lanier Middle School noticed that ducks    frequently nest near a small pond created in the   schoolyard’s habitat area, and they wanted to ensure the    area supported duck nesting and wise water use. They felt    that using rain barrels to fill the pond would be a better    use of resources than filling the pond with potable water,    and a good way to lead by example. However, they found    that the school building has no downspouts in the habitat    area, which is in an interior courtyard, so they thought a    funnel could be used to direct rainwater into a rain barrel.   students 2

By conserving water, promoting wildlife habitat, and    demonstrating an application for water harvesting, they    knew their idea would improve the Chesapeake    Bay watershed, and it would save the energy used to treat drinking water

A finalist proposal in the 2014 Caring for Our Watersheds    competition, their solution involved    designing several possible funnels, and having one built to their specifications. They built a platform for the funnel and planted vegetation that would make the area a better nesting place. In consultation with experts from Lands & Waters and Friends of Accotink Creek, they implemented their solution with $2,000 in funding from Agrium.

International Rain Barrel Giveaway

image1-2Rain barrels are designed to collect water, but one distinctive rain barrel designed by students at Daysland School in central Alberta is garnering just as much attention as it is water.

Butterflies, toads, dragonflies and other flora and fauna help depict a healthy watershed on a rain barrel designed by 20 students from grades five to 12 at Daysland School. It also helped the classroom win $1,000 through an international rain barrel giveaway and art contest sponsored by Agrium’s Caring for our Watersheds (“CFW”) program.

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Centreville Rain Gardens

2013 Centreville, Virginia, USA
group of students working
In the spring of 2013, a team of 15 sixth‐grade students at Centreville Elementary School took a close look at the playground area at the back of the school. Observing during a rainstorm, they noted soil, trash, and mulch washing into the storm drains that lead to Little Rocky Run. Working through the Caring for Our Watersheds Student Workbook, and relying on information from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, they came up with a plan to build three strategically placed rain    gardens and to keep the school community students and rain gardeninformed about why rain gardens matter.

Third place finishers in the 2013 Caring for Our Watersheds competition, the Centreville students built their rain gardens, edging them with handmade “bio‐logs” seeded with two grass and two wildflower species. They communicated their project on the school news, a presentation, and signage at the rain garden areas.

To cover costs of the project, they were able to leverage a $1,200 Fairfax County Public Schools    Schoolyard Stewardship Mini‐Grant and received $630 in implementation funding from Agrium