Ward 1 City Council Member Kevin Reich (second from left) waters a plant in the Northeast Middle School rain garden, along with several students. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

Northeast Middle School celebrates rain garden

Updated: June 14, 2017 - 1:57 pm

The Northeast Middle School community and Audubon neighborhood on May 19 celebrated the completion of the school’s new rain garden.

The garden occupies a previously underused section of the parking lot on the school’s south side. It will treat up to 22,400 gallons of stormwater at a time and keep polluted water from flowing into the Mississippi River, according to the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, which funded the project.

The Audubon Neighborhood Association spearheaded the effort to install the garden, inspired by green projects at Edison High School. The group got a planning grant from the MWMO and hired the firm Civil Site Group to draw up a plan for the garden.

Civil Site Group Landscape Architect Patrick Sarver worked with Northeast students on calculations and a design concept for the garden. The neighborhood association then got a $50,000 action grant from the MWMO for the project.

The association worked with Creative Lawn & Landscapes to execute the project, removing 23,000 square feet of pavement from the parking lot and constructing a biofiltration basin in its place. They installed an S-shaped trench and filled the basin with a variety of native plants.

The school plans to incorporate the garden into its science curriculum. Science teacher Yosefa Carriger said the seventh-grade curriculum is all about ecosystems, including lessons on the water cycle and permeable and nonpermeable surfaces. She added that the garden will be used for experiments during an eighth-grade unit on weather and water.

“This is about them creating that space so they can own their education,” she said. “It makes learning come alive, and that’s the way it should be.”

Audubon Neighborhood Association board member Don Sellers thanked MWMO Board of Commissioners Chair and Ward 1 Council Member Kevin Reich for his leadership on the project.

Reich said the project isn’t just great for the environment and the community but that it also reintroduces the notion of an outlet for hands-on learning.

“The kids get to get out and touch what they’re learning about,” he said. “The teachers have really embraced that.”