Kids plant rain garden behind Dover elementary school

 

Cub scouts, community members, Delaware State Parks Youth Conservation Corps team members and other organizers came out to plant a rain garden at W. Reily Brown Elementary School on Thursday. (Caesar Rodney School District/Ron Gough)

Cub scouts, community members, Delaware State Parks Youth Conservation Corps team members and other organizers came out to plant a rain garden at W. Reily Brown Elementary School on Thursday. (Caesar Rodney School District/Ron Gough)

DOVER — In a soggy field on a gray morning, a group behind W. Reily Brown Elementary School was planting a rain garden.

A rain garden is a shallow depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses to capture rainwater runoff, which can carry pollutants into local streams.

Organizers from the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, the state Division of Parks and Recreation, and the Children in Nature Coalition partnered with the Caesar Rodney School District to construct the garden Thursday morning.

Children can learn from the garden throughout the school year, and not just during recess. In class, teachers can take students outside to teach them about pollinators, native plants, watersheds, ecosystems, wetland areas.

Curious children will watch the interaction between plants and animals, land and water.

Allison Ostertag, a habitat specialist for the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, said the garden will become home to wildlife including birds, butterflies, bumblebees, frog, salamanders, hundreds of tiny caterpillars.

The plants, from sedges to rushes, from blueberries to milkweed, will offer the animals food and shelter.

In the garden, the stormwater, which rushed out of nearby culverts in the early morning rainfall Thursday, can soak into the soil.

Cub scouts, community members and the Delaware State Parks Youth Conservation Corps came out Thursday to help plant the garden.

The Youth Conservation Corps, an eight-week program for ages 16 to 21, is aimed at youth with an interest in conservation and a respect for the environment.

The six-member “environmental stewardship team” will be working on rain gardens in western Sussex County, said Ashleigh MicKinney, the program coordinator, so the day at Brown gave them important experience.

Under a light drizzle of rain, while distant thunder rumbled above them, the group wore muddy gloves, picked up shovels and set to work planting the garden.

Two cub scouts, Kyle Wagner, 9, and William Burris, 10, were crouched on the wet ground trying to dig a hole deep enough for their plant.

“I like planting because I do it all the time with my dad,” Kyle said, “so it’s fun getting to do it, planting new things.”

The garden falls right in line with the goals of the Delaware Children in Nature initiative, said Cheryl Pittenger, the program coordinator.

The Delaware Children in Nature Coalition promotes “meaningful outdoor experiences” for both both in and out of school.

“We hope this can be a seed for the children for much larger exposure to this,” Ms. Pittenger said.

Green spaces such as the rain garden fall right in line with school science standards, said Tanyea Mead, a science education associate for the state Department of Education.

Instead of just listening to lessons in the classroom, students are encouraged to learn in the real world, she said.

Dr. Susan Frampton, the principal at Brown, said the garden will also teach students stewardship as they weed the garden, track the growth of the plants and observe the wildlife.

“We’re trying in our own little way to bring some beauty to our school and return the natural environment to what it used to be,” she said.

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