Middle school students propose green solutions

Middle school students visit the Watershed Stewardship Center.

Photo by Christine Smrdel

We’ve all seen it: puddles of water gathering around the clogged drains in our driveways, rivulets of water running down the sidewalks, and standing water pooling in our yards. That’s stormwater runoff, and it’s a problem.

As that water moves over impervious surfaces, such as roads and parking lots, it picks up pollutants and harmful chemicals and carries them into freshwater and oceans. Due to urban development and an increase in paved surfaces, stormwater is increasing in communities throughout the country, including Cleveland Heights and University Heights. But seventh-graders in Lee Ann Chambers’ and Sarah Cusick’s science classes at Monticello Middle School, and Christine Smrdel’s and Joshua Luton’s classes at Roxboro Middle School, have solutions. 

The students began their Earth’s Water unit by visiting Cleveland MetroParks’ Watershed Stewardship Center to learn about stormwater runoff and explore green infrastructure options to reduce its impact. They worked in pairs or small groups to research solutions, eventually settling on one or two that they would like to see implemented on their own school campuses.

Students priced out the options, from installation of permeable pavers in the parking lots to planting and maintaining rain gardens on their school grounds; sketched prototypes of their ideas; designed 3-D models on top of GoogleEarth images of their school buildings; created slideshows detailing their proposals; and presented them to their classmates, teachers, and guests from the Board of Education.

The most popular student suggestions were permeable pavers, either in school parking lots or near frequently used entrances and exits, along with rain gardens and green rooftops.

Students were aware of the challenges some of these ideas presented, such as the risk of rooftop gardens leaking from the added weight, and the need for someone to maintain rain gardens, which most felt could be done by members of their schools’ environmental clubs. 

While the proposals are hypothetical at this stage, the lessons learned extended beyond the classrooms. Roxboro student Olivia Bruening plans to talk to her parents about installing permeable pavers around her garage, where water accumulates after rain. Other students said the unit helped them to think differently. “I didn't realize how much runoff actually affects us. I’m going to make my mom more aware,” said Marissa Woods, a student from Monticello.

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, is a former district teacher, and a freelance journalist under contract with the CH-UH City School District.

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Volume 12, Issue 12, Posted 11:21 AM, 12.03.2019