Under the guidance of FTLA, 12 year-old Rachel Pontious, other members of the Environmental Club and seventh grade students at Roland Park Elementary Middle School (RPEMS) spent the last week transforming an existing garden at the school into a series of rain gardens.
Part of the second annual Green Apple Day of Service initiative sponsored by the United States Green Building Council, the Water Works project at RPEMS was designed to improve campus water quality, enhance the habitat of native butterflies and amphibians and create an outdoor classroom space teachers could use for demonstrations.
Beginning Monday, September 30, students, parent volunteers, school officials and FTLA staff began excavating and removing non-native plant material from the school’s existing garden. On Saturday, October 5, Water Works culminated with a Community Day hosted by FTLA during which volunteers, students and parents planted more than 600 plants.
According to Zolna Russell, director of sustainability at FTLA, 200 seventh grade students and 20 parent volunteers worked on the project, installing stone for a path, building a rain garden structure, making soil amendments, creating waterfalls and preparing the area for planting. The non-profit environmental group Blue Water Baltimore also participated in the initiative, presenting an educational seminar to students on rain gardens and water sheds and why they are important to the environment.
“The Roland Park Rain Garden was a couple months, many Environmental Club meetings, and four hours of research for me in the making. For a while, it just seemed like a cool idea,” says Pontious. “It was really exciting to see that cool idea come to life. It really looks beautiful now and I’m glad that I did something to make it happen.”
“The new rain garden is a perfect addition to our campus and is an ideal setting for an outdoor classroom and area for teachers to demonstrate the benefits of a garden to our students,” says Nick D’Ambrosio, principal of RPEMS. “We are delighted to have such a wonderful community and dedicated partners like FTLA and Blue Water Baltimore to help us facilitate this initiative.”