More than 100 Pickerington Lakeview Junior High School students last week constructed three rain gardens that not only will spruce up their campus, but also reduce the amount of pollutants that flow into drinking water sources.
During the past nine weeks, 149 Lakeview seventh-graders have learned about water scarcity issues worldwide and stormwater runoff.
Many of the lessons were science-based and taught in seventh-grade science teacher Mary Biggs' classroom, but students also learned about those issues through reading assignments in Candace Smith's seventh-grade reading classes.
Those teachers, buoyed by the Pickerington Local School District's ongoing commitment to implement more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics curriculum into classrooms forged partnerships with Grief Inc., a Delaware, Ohio-based industrial packaging products and services company.
The collaboration led to Grief's donation of $3,000 for Biggs' and Smith's classes to build three rain gardens at Lakeview, the designs for which were created by Lakeview students and approved by Mad Scientists & Associates, a Westerville ecological and consulting firm.
"At the end of our nine weeks, we had a skills-based design challenge," Smith said. "From that, three rain gardens were built.
"We spent the full school day (May 27) and most of the day (May 28) building these, and we had parents that came out and helped."
Rain gardens are shallow depressions that are planted with deep-rooted, native plants and grasses.
They're positioned near water runoff sources such as downspouts, driveways and sump pumps to capture rainwater runoff and stop the water from reaching the sewer system.
In addition to stripping grass for the gardens, the students also planted the gardens -- which will be self-sustaining because of rain runoff -- and mulched them.
"The kids took the sod off with shovels," Smith said.
"We all worked together."
In addition to reducing water pollutants created by Lakeview facilities, the project had a community service element because it worked to beautify the area.
It also will have a broader impact after the classes last week were set to auction off rain barrels, which capture runoff and can be used to water plants or yards. Proceeds from the auction will go to Grief's PackH20 initiative.
That program provides water backpacks that can help people in developing nations safely store and transport clean water.
"It has been such an exciting project for our students to take this as their capstone project," said Chelle Watts, Lakeview assistant principal.
"We've been working for opportunities for learning to not just be in text books, but for there to be actual applications."
Watts said the project achieved many STEM objectives.
In addition to implementing science-based learning into English lessons and partnering with businesses and others in the community, it also sought to teach students about thinking globally, problem-solving and working collaboratively, she said.
"This is something the students have done, and it's going to have a legitimate impact on our amount of runoff and the ecological system," Watts said.