PORTLAND — The community gardens at Riverton Elementary School have a water problem.

So, fourth grade students at the school stepped in to create a new rain garden that’s designed to collect and absorb excess water.

The students and their partners on the project, including the Cumberland County Soil and Water District, Maine Audubon and the city, opened the garden June 11.

Project organizer Brooke Teller said the students did most of the work involved, including composting, mulching and planting.

Teller is working at Riverton Elementary this school year as a science coach to other teachers while she’s on sabbatical from Casco Bay High School.

She said the rain garden came out of curriculum planning for a unit called “Our Changing Earth.”

Through that unit the fourth graders learned about issues around stormwater runoff, including erosion and pollution, Teller said. They also discussed best management practices for controlling excess water.

“We knew there was a need to do something to manage the water runoff that pooled at the back of the community gardens,” she said this week.

The students planned the rain garden “to try to absorb the excess water coming from the property into that low spot on campus.”

The rain garden consists of native shrubs and flowering perennials that like having what Teller called “wet feet.” She said it’s also hoped the plants chosen will attract key pollinators throughout the growing season.

In addition, the rain garden includes an underground perforated pipe that’s surrounded by rocks to store excess water migrating to the particular spot on school grounds.

The goal “is to collect the water away from the community garden so that their plants are not waterlogged,” Teller said.

Although students did much of the work, Teller said the project had support from volunteers with Allagash Brewing Co., who helped with site preparation. All of the materials and labor involved were donated as well.

“Without all of their support and donations of materials, we could not have created this garden,” Teller said of all the partners involved in the project.

Three students, Abdiweli Mahamed, Sophie Reba and Yadier Lorda-Flores, spoke at the ribbon cutting last week.

In particular, Reba talked about the pollutants that can be found in runoff.

“We fourth graders think that if we try to deal with pollution now, we can help our world in the future,” she said.

Mahamed discussed the best ways to prevent or reduce runoff and soil erosion and said rain gardens work to help stabilize the soil.

Lorda-Flores talked about how much fun the students had planning and creating the rain garden.

Teller is hopeful that the hands-on learning activity “helps to solidify the information the students learned.”

Through the rain garden project, she said, the students had “the opportunity to apply their learning to an important service project and to help an authentic audience – the community gardeners.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Fourth grade students at Riverton Elementary School in Portland celebrated the opening of their new rain garden last week.


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