This fall, 56 Indianola Informal K-8 School students got an up-close and personal view of science in action.

And it was in their own backyards.

Science teacher Jared Laughbaum's students met in September with Ohio State University graduate students David Wituszynski and Kate Boehling to learn about green infrastructure via a research project they are conducting under the guidance of Jay Martin, professor of ecological engineering in OSU's Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

The following month, the youngsters journeyed with their teacher, the grad students and Martin to Glenmont Place to conduct an experiment measuring the effectiveness of one of Clintonville's rain gardens during a storm.

"It's a relatable topic that the students can really understand," Laughbaum said last week.

Martin, a Clintonville resident who has two children attending Indianola Informal, said the research project was supported by grants from the city and the National Science Foundation.

"To me, it was extremely fulfilling to see so many students actively interested in green infrastructure and learning about it and seeing its benefits," he said. "It's really inspiring.

"The key thing about the scientific method is to be curious ... and see what the answers are, not have predetermined conclusions. By preparing to look at how a rain garden should work and seeing how one of them worked in a slightly different way keeps them open to possibilities and shows them why it's important to not only have theories in their head but to test them out."

A handful of Laughbaum's students who participated in the research effort, all of them eighth-graders, gathered Dec. 11 to discuss their experience.

"I feel like the rain garden we went over to explore wasn't that large," said Michael Ogbara.

"I definitely think the topic of science interested me more after this," Noah Baker said. "You hear about research in the news all the time, but when it's actually around the corner and it's actually impacting where you live, I feel that's really cool."

"Honestly, when you sit in a class and read a text, you don't ever think how this is going to affect me," said Muriel Wood.

"What really interested me was how it works, how it's able to transfer the stormwater runoff to where it needs to be," said Carolena Kaiser.

"They were showing us how rain gardens work," said Samuel Granger. "It just seems to be healthier."

As with all things science in this day and age, some aspects of Blueprint Columbus -- the green infrastructure project that includes the installation of rain gardens in Clintonville -- have been questioned by residents regarding their validity.

"I'm very much aware of the controversy, living in Clintonville," Martin said.

He and Laughbaum used that awareness in discussing the overall project with the Indianola Informal students.

Laughbaum showed his students footage from local television news coverage of residents voicing their objections to the installations.

Understanding the community and the reaction to green infrastructure efforts "really impacts the success of any type of green infrastructure program," Martin said.

"It's not only how a system works but relaying that and explaining to the community that are important," he said.

Two awards are funding the research and collaboration between OSU and Indianola Informal: a National Science Foundation grant for $298,000 for two years; and a $1.8 million contract with the city to monitor impacts of Blueprint Columbus for six years.

"Overall, it was a great opportunity for me and OSU students to see the next generation take interest and be inspired by more sustainable ways to manage stormwater and improve water quality in rivers and streams of Clintonville," Martin said.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1