“When you are finished getting yourself ready in the morning, you must go and get the planet ready.”
-The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Through our newest education offering, Rains to Roots, we ask high school students to do just that. We ask them to think bigger than themselves, and participate in building climate resiliency within their own community.
We begin the program by opening students’ eyes to the fact that nature is all around us as we shed the misconception that nature is far away and inaccessible. We re-awaken that sense of wonder that humans all possess. We do this through a “silent hike” around the schoolyard. Students follow a trail of cards, pausing at each one to reflect on an idea, use a hand-lens to examine a flower growing through the sidewalk cracks, and observe the birds that inhabit the schoolyard with binoculars. We allow busy high school students, who rarely have free time to relax, to simply take a few deep breaths outdoors.
This exercise is followed by a lesson on the natural processes that keep our ecosystem healthy and the ways that humans have interfered. In alignment with the A.P. Environmental Science curriculum, students learn about urban runoff pollution, why historically there is a lack of green spaces in many disadvantaged communities, and solutions to these issues. Students are introduced to low-impact development features that cities can adopt.
They learn the scientific processes behind rain gardens and bioswales, and design a hypothetical rain garden around their school. This includes learning the native plants and their adaptations that allow a rain garden to thrive and filter out pollutants, testing for slope to determine ideal sites for rain gardens, and calculating the runoff area from a roof. After exploring these topics through two classroom sessions, students visit the Richmond Greenway, where they tour The Watershed Project’s existing rain gardens and bioswales, and then get their hands dirty through planting, mulching, and weeding.
Through hands-on service learning, students help their own community become better prepared for the challenges that accompany climate change such as flooding. When they return to the classroom, we help them reflect on all of the stakeholders involved in city planning through a mock town hall meeting. After a second visit to the Greenway to engage in service learning, students participate in a final reflection in their classroom to think about the importance of volunteering, how they can be leaders today in their community, and potential careers they can go into in the future.
We are grateful to Vista High School where we have been welcomed by a group of motivated and inspiring students studying environmental science and biology as well as a dedicated teacher. Engaging youth in “getting our planet ready” has been a source of hope for our future and The Watershed Project is thrilled to expand Rains to Roots to more high schools in the area. If interested, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.