Earth Friendly: Students implement rainwater harvesting system
By Marie Lester
March 8, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 7, 2012 at 9:08 p.m.
Sprawling patches of splotchy brown monkey grass welcomed visitors to the 45-year-old campus.
Students threw their garbage into the dying bed of weeds that was in desperate need of an overhaul. The Stroman campus was a high school for more than 40 years, until it transitioned in 2010 into an advanced learning center for middle school students.
Holly McCutcheon's eighth-grade Future Problem Solving Team rose to the challenge of overhauling the campus with project Beautifying, Educating, Achieving Success Together.
BEAST students created a plan and got it approved to beautify the campus with a xeriscaped garden and rainwater harvesting system. They recruited help from the city of Victoria Environmental Services Department to design and build the rainwater system and plant the garden.
The Victoria community and local organizations, including the Victoria County Groundwater Conservation District, donated funds, manpower and materials at a value of about $8,000 for the Stroman "makeover."
The 14 BEAST students started the project by attending a series of presentations. They learned about the Guadalupe River and water resources from the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority.
They listened intently as Victoria County Master Gardeners and Midcoast Master Naturalists told stories about Texas rainfall and how to capture it in a barrel. They scrunched up their faces in thought as staff from environmental services helped them calculate how much water their harvester would capture.
Students piled into a bus and traveled to the Victoria Educational Gardens to learn gardening techniques to apply to their own garden.
After absorbing as much information as they could, the work began. They worked after school and on weekends to remove weeds, till the soil and amend it with compost.
Next, they worked with K&T Construction to build the rainwater catchment system. Students mixed their own concrete to set posts, learned to use various tools and built a rainwater catchment system with their own hands.
The system consists of four 55-gallon barrels mounted beneath a 10 foot by 10 foot corrugated metal roof. It is efficient at collecting enough water to maintain the garden bed it sits in. The garden was originally watered with an outdated sprinkler system tied into the school's water supply.
The rainwater harvesting system replaced this old system and saves the school money by using natural rainfall. The harvester will collect 2,492 gallons of water annually (based on an average annual rainfall 40 inches).
Stroman is one of the only schools in the region with a rainwater harvesting system. The rainwater harvester is now used as an outdoor classroom and field trip opportunity to teach elementary students about water conservation.
The Future Problem Solvers teach using a rainwater coloring book they created. The system has generated much interest in the community, and two other schools are planning to put one in this year.
BEAST students took their project to state and international Future Problem Solving competitions where they won fourth place. The project also won the 2011 Rain Catcher Award in the Education Category from the Texas Water Development Board. The BEAST project brings beauty to Stroman - it transformed the "beastly" campus into a beautiful environmental showplace.
Marie Lester, is the Environmental Programs Coordinator for the city of Victoria's Environmental Services Department. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.