Horizons, Grassroots Partner to Teach Students About Environmental Stewardship

New Rain Garden Will Provide Valuable Lessons for Rochester City Students This Summer
Horizons students planting flowersRochester city school students participating in Horizons at Warner Project at the University of Rochester will learn first-hand about the benefits of rain gardens this summer.
With the help of a new grant from the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, known as NYSP21, the six-week, full-day Horizons summer enrichment program will launch a project called Rain Gardens for Youth Empowerment and Pollution Prevention.  In partnership with the student-led, environmental-action awareness group Grassroots on River Campus, this new initiative will use a newly installed rain garden to help teach 130 elementary and middle school students about water pollution issues in the environment. These students, ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade, will play a vital role in addressing environmental issues impacting the Genesee River and Lake Ontario due to significant rainwater runoff.  
Undergraduate students from Grassroots will work together with Campus Planning, Design, and Construction Management this spring to plan, design, build, and install the rain garden near the Lyman Outdoor Tennis Courts, a 1,000 square-foot-area located on Wilson Boulevard near Campus Security. The project will then provide hands-on experience for Horizons students as they plant and maintain the rain garden this summer while learning about protecting the environment through water conservation and various pollution prevention efforts.
A rain garden is a planted low area that collects runoff from hard surfaces and allows the water to filter into the ground. The plants help to capture and control rainwater run-off and the plant roots help to remove pollutants before they reach rivers and lakes. The new rain garden initiative will have tangible, positive effects on the environment by filtering rainwater runoff pollution from the tennis courts on River Campus and reducing the rate of runoff into the Genesee River and storm drain systems, which empty into Lake Ontario. It will also help to prevent future water damage and maintenance to the tennis courts.
The rain garden concept stemmed from a water pollution problem that began years ago when the large tennis courts replaced soil and plant life that once absorbed water. Water now collects and runs off the tennis courts and surrounding slope, draining directly into the Genesee River.  
According to Lynn Gatto, director of Horizons at Warner who also directs the elementary education program at the Warner School, students will develop an understanding of the garden’s contribution to the environment and sustainability issues.
“Our goal is to make students more environmentally conscious,” said Gatto, “and to show them that they can play a significant part in preserving the earth. We hope that they will learn to become advocates and stewards of the environment.”
In addition to serving as a site for Horizons lessons, the rain garden will also become a social gathering place for others on campus. A QR code will be onsite for mobile-device users to learn more about the rain garden project through a featured project video, created by Horizons and Grassroots, highlighting their efforts and promoting citizen action.  The rain garden curriculum, created by lead teachers of Horizons as part of the overall project, will also be disseminated to local elementary schools so that they can develop and maintain their own rain gardens using the established curriculum.   
“We were very impressed with the quality of the community grant applications,” said Anahita Williamson, NYSP2I’s director. “In addition to teaching young students about water pollution issues and the environment, this project will help them to understand how important solving these challenges is to a sustainable future for our region, state and planet.”
About the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute
NYSP21 LogoNYSP2I is a partnership between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Rochester Institute of Technology and its Golisano Institute for Sustainability, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the State University of New York at Buffalo and Clarkson University, with a statewide reach. NYSP2I also works with the state’s 10 Regional Technology Development Corporations to help disseminate data and strategy.
NYSP2I’s goal is to make the state more sustainable for workers, the public, the environment and the economy through pollution prevention. Pollution prevention is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and reusing materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.
NYSP2I’s Community Grants Program provides support for projects that raise awareness and understanding and lead to implementation of pollution prevention practices and/or behaviors at the local level with the goal of improving the health, environmental quality, and economic vitality of New York State communities. Following a competitive review process, the University rain garden project was one of 16 projects selected for funding for 2014-15. For more information on NYSP21, click here or visit: http://www.rit.edu/affiliate/nysp2i/.
To learn more about the Horizons at Warner Program, contact Lynn Gatto at lgatto@warner.rochester.edu, or visit www.warner.rochester.edu/centersandresearch/go/Horizon. To learn more about Grassroots, visit: ccc.rochester.edu/organization/grassroots.

About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education offers master’s and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, educational policy, counseling, human development, and health professions education. The Warner School of Education offers a new accelerated option for its EdD programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform. 
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Tags: environmental sustainability, Horizons at Warner, Lynn Gatto