A rain garden is a shallow, constructed depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses. It is located in your landscape to receive runoff from hard surfaces such as a roof, a sidewalk and a driveway. Rain gardens slow down the rush of water from these hard surfaces, holds the water for a short period of time and allows it to naturally infiltrate into the ground.
Bay Grasses in Classes
The Bay Grasses in Classes program is a hands-on education project that gives students a direct role in Chesapeake Bay restoration. Teachers are given the equipment and materials required to grow bay grasses in their classrooms. During the semester, students perform experiments to study bay grass growth. Experiment data are posted on the Bay Grasses in Classes website. At the end of the semester students plant their bay grasses in select areas of the Chesapeake Bay. Students gain a sense of stewardship of the Bay by studying the biological importance of bay grasses and actively participating in restoration.
Build Your Own Rain Barrel
A rain barrel is a container that collects rain water from rooftops (this is called stormwater runoff). Rain barrels come in several different shapes and sizes, but they all do the same thing: they save water and decrease stormwater runoff. Placed at the base of a downspout, a typical rain barrel can hold 55-75 gallons of water at one time. When connected to a watering hose, a rain barrel can hold a water supply for watering gardens, trees, and even indoor plants. Rain barrels can be bought from garden supply centers, or they can easily be built. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's rain barrel project guide describes step-by-step how to build and install a safe and successful rain barrel. This project is inexpensive and easy enough for most students to complete, with some help from adults. Although our rain barrels are specifically designed with schoolyards in mind, they would work just as well at a home, community center, religious center, or any other private property. All you need is a roof with exterior downspouts!
Creating a Pond Habitat
There are lots of ways to wade into water in schoolyard gardens and habitats: exploring transpiration, experimenting with mulches and other means of conserving water, cre ating weather stations, restoring wetlands, and assessing the water needs of area wildlife, to name a few. One sure route to rousing students' thinking about water is through the creation of a schoolyard or classroom pond. Many teachers have discovered that ponds inspire explorations of the life and chemistry of aquatic ecosystems, along with reading, writing, and quiet reflection. Even if your school is fortunate to have a "real" pond nearby, "growing" even a small one of their own can deepen students' understanding of the interactions among all the ecosystem's factors and players.
It is important to keep the area around your local waterways clean. When left on the ground, litter eventually will be blown or carried by wind or rain into a waterway, where it can interfere with spawning beds and injure fish, wildlife, and people. Litter can also block free-flowing water and hinder recreational uses. You can help keep local water bodies litter-free by conducting a watershed cleanup. A watershed cleanup is easy to plan and allows the entire school and community to participate. It can also be an excellent way to start the community working on larger, more comprehensive watershed co nservation projects.
Create a Living Shoreline
Living Shorelines are a creative and proven approach to protecting tidal shorelines from erosion. The technique consists of planting native wetland plants and grasses, shrubs, and trees at various points along the tidal water line. Plantings are often coordinated with carefully placed bioengineering materials, such as manmade coconut-fiber rolls (or biologs) to protect vegetation and soils. Where viable, oysters can be included as well. Projects may include stone elements, as long as they do not cut off access to the shore. Living shorelines have many benefits and vary with specific site conditions. They improve water quality by settling sediments and filtering pollution; provide shoreline access to wildlife, such as nesting turtles, horseshoe crabs, and shorebirds; provide shallow water habitat and a diversity of plant species for aquatic and terrestrial animals; provide shade to keep water temperatures cool, helping to increase oxygen levels for fish and other aquatic species; look natural rather than man-made and artificial; and absorb wave energy so that reflected waves do not scour the shallow sub-tidal zone and hamper the growth of underwater grasses.