As a Landscape Architect at GreenWorks, I get the chance to work on projects for many local public schools. I am often amazed at how much Portland area students know about rainwater. To some of them the terms rain garden, infiltration, and combined sewer are household words. A few years ago, in a 5th grade class, I lead a discussion on the effects of urban development on stormwater and how increased impervious surfaces speed up and pollute our water . I was barraged with questions about why we continue to let this happen and why someone is not doing more about it. It seems the work of local designers, environmentalists and agencies was not enough for them. It’s refreshing to see this type of concern and curiosity in young people. It inspires me to continue to work with schools. The school community at Beverly Cleary School in NE Portland was inspired to develop a project that improved their schools effects on urban stormwater. It took some determination. They built and planted a swale at their school in the spring of 2006, but the downspouts were never disconnected to feed into the swale.
Recently, a dedicated parent with the support of the school community fostered the project through to completion. GreenWorks donated design and consulting services for the swale and most recently for design of the downspout disconnects. In addition to the downspout design, GreenWorks collaborated with students to measure the soil’s infiltration rate, and helped with contractor coordination during construction. The highlight of the project is the pouring downspout bucket. See it in action below. This living science lab is now open for exploration and learning by the school’s students![youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj-tXCxpzsE&fs=1&hl=en_US]
Michelle Mathis is a Landscape Architect at GreenWorks with 8 years of experience. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Landscape Architecture from Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture, and has a Master’s in Education from Portland State University.