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August 16, 2012

Kind News Story: Create a Rain Garden

Rain garden illustration from Aug/Sept 2012 Kind News

Chad Thompson

During a rainstorm, water runs off your roof, across your lawn, onto a road, and into storm drains. From there it flows into streams, ponds, lakes, rivers—even the ocean. Along the way, it picks up dirt, lawn chemicals, road salt, pet waste, trash—and who knows what else!

Wild animals living in or near water can get sick or die from the  pollution. But you can help protect their habitats. Filter the water before  it leaves your neighborhood by making a rain garden!

Shaped like saucers, rain gardens are located in the water’s path. Stones and the roots of native plants in the garden keep the water from rushing into gutters. They also help remove pollutants from the water. By the time it spills into larger bodies of water, it's much cleaner!

They did it!

Four years ago, Lucas Shivers, a teacher in Shawnee, Kansas, founded a group called the “green team” at his middle school. Each year, the group chooses an eco-friendly project to work on during the school year.  In 2010-11, the team chose to create a rain garden on school grounds.

With permission from the school principal and funding from Keeping Kansas City Beautiful, the team worked with a landscape architect and local landscaper to plan the garden. Once they decided on a location, the team dug up the grass and prepared the soil. Then, enlisting help from their families and other volunteers, they planted 600 native, deep-rooted plants. Since then, green team members have been weeding and maintaining the garden.

Besides filtering the water entering local water supplies, the rain garden also solved a drainage problem on school grounds and has been a learning experience for students.

Shivers says students practiced math skills while designing the garden, and they also track and calculate how much water is percolating into the ground. Science classes regularly visit the garden to observe wildlife and the life cycles of plants and insects. The rain garden has also helped students make the connection between the rain falling from the sky and the water running in the sink.

You can do it!

Create a rain garden at your home or school. Ask your parents or teacher to check out these instructions to get started.

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