The Kids are Alright!

Students around the Neponset Watershed are learning about real world water issues and doing their part to get the message across.

This past spring, I had the pleasure of working with students and faculty from both Canton and Sharon High Schools on some very creative and interesting projects. In addition, I had the privilege of introducing the 5th grade students from the Gibbons Elementary School in Stoughton to the Town Engineers who designed and installed rain gardens at their school.

The Canton High School project began with a presentation to art and engineering students about residential water conservation, and polluted stormwater runoff and its affect on local waterways.

Canton High Engineering students then worked together with their teacher to “up-cycle” large import soy sauce barrels with brass spigot for water access and overflow holes, before passing them along to the CHS visual art students, who used their creativity to turn them into works of art.

The finished barrels were auctioned off at the Canton Public School Student Art Show in May, and barrels sold for between $75 and $200 each.  Proceeds from the sale of the barrels will be used to purchase a water bottle refill station at Canton High School, a project that students chose to support, in order to reduce plastic water bottles in landfills.

The CHS Rain Barrel Project was a great STEAM exercise, that allowed engineering students to tackle a real problem and design an attractive, functional 65 gallon rain barrel, while art students had a chance to express their creativity.

This was the third year that NepRWA has partnered with Canton High School on an outreach project and we are already in discussion about another collaborative project for 2019. Supplies for the rain barrel project were made possible by grant from the Canton Alliance for Public Education (CAPE).

Rain barrels can be viewed here.

At Sharon High School, a small group of art students are literally drawing attention to local storm drains through their colorful murals.

After a visit with students to discuss issues related to polluted storm water runoff, and a discussion as to how public art can become an educational tool, students were presented with a challenge to create murals around the school’s storm drains. Working with their teacher, students came up with some sketches and then translated their ideas from paper to pavement. Supplies for the mural project were generously donated by the Sharon Water Department.

This is not the first time that students at Sharon High School have worked with the Sharon Water Department and NepRWA to bring attention to water issues. We are thankful to have a dedicated partner in SHS Art Teacher, Janine Gardner, who supports environmental issues and works to integrate her lesson plans with real world challenges.

Past projects have included street signs, photography exhibits, videos, and illustrated posters, which were displayed at the MA State House, and received multiple prestigious art awards from the state, as well as an award for excellence from the EPA.

See Sharon High School storm drain murals here.

Why Storm Drain Murals?

Storm drains are meant to convey water off of roadways and into local streams and ponds. Unfortunately, when water runs off of hard surfaces like parking lots and roadways, it often picks up bacteria, chemicals and litter, which are then transmitted directly into waterways.  This “stormwater runoff” is a serious cause of water pollution, and towns across Massachusetts are working to prevent it, thanks to a recent Environmental Protection Agency permit.  Residents are encouraged to take action to prevent stormwater runoff around their homes as well.

Not everyone understands how storm drains work, and they are often used incorrectly. A recent extreme example of this occurred in Canton, where 3,600 feet of storm drain pipe was found clogged by plastic bags filled with dog waste, which cost the town approximately $9,000 in repairs. Apparently, residents in one particular neighborhood were using the storm drain as a trash can for years. For those who wish to read the details, click here to read about “poopgate”.

Bottom line, storm drains are not trash cans, and it’s up to everyone to help keep our waterways clean.

At the Gibbons Elementary School in Stoughton, the entire 5th grade was taken on a tour of recently installed rain gardens and infiltration basins by Marc Tisdelle and Craig Horsfall, the team of Stoughton engineers who worked on the project. The students learned about polluted runoff and were able to ask questions about the work that the engineers did.

The rain garden project was a collaboration between the Town of Stoughton and NepRWA, and financed with federal funds from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (the Department) under an s. 319 competitive grant.

Nancy Fyler, Outreach & Education Director, June 2018

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