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Students Spring Into Action: From Pollution Runoff Nightmare to Native Garden Paradise

Native garden (3)Fourth graders hard at work planting a native garden at their school, Chesapeake Public Charter School, to prevent harmful polluted runoff. Photos courtesy of April Skinner.

After having the University of Maryland Extension office visit our school and conduct professional development for our staff, it was very apparent that our school yard has pollution runoff issues

Before garden 2
Before planting native plants to soak up polluted runoff.

We discovered that nearly a foot of soil had washed away from the front flagpole area of our school (Chesapeake Public Charter School) since our doors opened in 2008. After looking at pictures from our dedication ceremony in 2008, we saw a huge difference in the soil and the amount of plant growth in a 800-square-foot area. This high traffic area's soil was so compacted it was like concrete. This was a great real-world problem solving opportunity and a perfect tie in to our erosion unit from the fall.

Fourth graders jumped into action. After calculating the perimeter of the space, we set out pavers to build an 8-inch wall around the area. Next, we calculated the volume of mulch and compost we would need to till in and cover this area. With the help and donations of many of our parents, we were able to fill our raised bed with 400-cubic feet of rich, dark, organic matter (including some of our school's own grown compost). 

Our school's environmental center provided more than 100 native, student-grown plants and trees to fill this space. Each student then researched one plant and made a field marker to educate the visitors of our school to each of the species we planted. We had three patrons ask us to identify plants before we were even done planting, as they wanted to plant the same in their yard!

 

Native garden (1)
Forty-five students (grades 4 and 7), two teachers, and three parent volunteers helped transform this runoff nightmare into a native garden paradise.

So, after one HOT workday, 45 students (grades 4 and 7), two teachers, and three parent volunteers, we finally transformed this runoff nightmare into a native garden paradise. It will be a work in progress, as we want to add a walkway to the flagpole and a few benches. But for now it is a beautiful addition to our school entryway. It also acts as an extension to our Monarch Waystation and CPCS Vegetable Garden.

Our fourth graders are now the voice for reducing pollution runoff. They can tell you that the plant roots now absorb the water, instead of letting it runoff down the hill, carrying soil and harmful nutrients with it. We transformed a semi-pervious surface into a sponge which can hold water or at least slow it down and reduce pollution runoff.

April Skinner, Fourth Grade Chesapeake Public Charter School Teacher  

Native garden (2)

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