Rain gardens are part of school, state sustainability initiatives

The new rain garden built at Mercer Island High School is part of a larger project undertaken by the Friends of the Cedar River Watershed (FCRW) and the state superintendent of schools. The FCRW envisions a demonstration rain garden at all 82 high schools in the greater Cedar River watershed. Through the rain garden program, high school ecology teachers, school Green Teams and student clubs will learn about stormwater issues, design a demonstration rain garden and communicate its purpose to the community.

Rain gardens benefit the environment in several ways:

• Reduce flooding.

• Reduce erosion.

• Naturally filters oil, grease and lawn chemicals out of streams.

• Absorb rain to recharge groundwater.

• Conserve water by planting native foliage that utilizes water best.

• Establish wildlife habitat.

• Educate homeowners and decision makers to take action.

Rain gardens are an alternative way to manage stormwater run-off and are seen as part of good building and landscaping design.

Ecological education and rain garden programs are examples of the new standards for environmental and sustainability education in Washington state schools.

School curriculum mandates that students meet three standards:

(1) Understanding ecological, social and economic systems.

(2) Understanding the relationship between the natural and built environment.

3) Understanding sustainability in relation to civic responsibility.

The standards are intended to support the integration of multiple subjects, systems thinking, inquiry, authentic assessment and project-based learning.

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