by Tom Damm
Schools planning field trips to teach students about stormwater pollution may not have to travel far. For many, the lesson is right outside their doors.
School buildings and grounds are potentially big conveyors of stormwater as rain washes over their roofs, parking lots and other hard surfaces, picking up pollutants before chugging into storm drains that empty into local waters.
A new, EPA Storm Smart Schools guide can help schools get higher marks in stormwater management.
The EPA Mid-Atlantic Region worked with the city and school district of Newport News, Virginia, to develop options for installing rain-absorbing features on school grounds that can prevent the flooding and water pollution linked to stormwater runoff.
The 36-page guide outlines the multiple benefits of school-based green infrastructure, from helping a community meet Clean Water Act restrictions on stormwater to providing hands-on instruction for students.
The “how to” guide captures the key steps followed by Newport News in selecting one of its schools – Sedgefield Elementary School – as a demonstration site for green infrastructure practices and engaging the community in the effort. A community meeting at Sedgefield produced design concepts to address the most flood-prone areas of the school property.,
In June 2017, Newport News public schools received $60,000 in Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) funding to support the Sedgefield design work.
The green practices, like rain gardens, permeable pavement and bioswales, mimic natural conditions and allow stormwater to soak in rather than run off. On school grounds, they also serve as outdoor learning labs to teach children valuable lessons about environmental protection and conservation.
For homework, be sure your school district is aware of the Storm Smart Schools guide.
About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.