Youth plant rain garden as community service learning project
Youth plant rain garden as community service learning project and learn valuable science and citizenship skills.
Rain gardens are highly environmentally beneficial. They are usually dug into a bowl shape and planted in a lower laying area in the landscape, created to soak up and filter run-off surface water. Run-off surface water drains from parking lots, driveways or rooftops and often contains pollutants such as fuel oil or pesticides. As Michigan State University Extension specialist Dixie Sandborn describes in her articles, “Using rain gardens to improve water quality – Part 1” and “Rain Gardens: Part 2 - Rain garden plants,” rain gardens are a great way to improve the water quality in your community. Building a rain garden can be a great activity for kids.
Hillsdale County 4-H youth designed and built a rain garden as a community service learning project at an assisted living facility in Hillsdale County. Youth planted the garden for the residents to enjoy and to do something beneficial for the environment. To fund the project, the group had applied for and received an educational garden grant through the Michigan 4-H Foundation.
Youth studied rain gardens and rain garden plants using the Earth Partnership for Schools Program by University of Wisconsin – Madison Arboretum as curriculum. They also went on several field trips visiting existing rain gardens. After careful research and arrangements with the assisted living facility, they studied the facility’s grounds, selected a location for the rain garden and then designed, dug and planted the rain garden and labeled all plants used in it. Only plants native to Michigan were used for the rain garden.
The 4-H Rain Garden Project was a very positive experience for youth and adults involved that gave youth the opportunity to make a difference in their community. Evaluations clearly state youth gained science knowledge as well as critical thinking, problem solving and decision making skills. In fact, 100 percent of youth surveyed feel more knowledgeable about environmental science and 100 percent plan to apply the environmental science knowledge they have gained.
Youth also gained citizenship skills. When asked, “How does the rain garden project build relationships (friendships) in our community?” youth answered, “It does it because people like looking at it together,” “It could bring people together and people can meet new people” and “It will make people happy.” One volunteer said, “Our rain garden project was beneficial not only for beautifying the grounds of the assisted living center, but also because it helps building connections between the 4-H members and their community. Hopefully, we planted the seeds that will blossom into friendships between the young and the old.”
Michigan 4-H Youth Development has a vast variety of resources and programs for youth. No matter what the project area, the goal is always to equip youth with knowledge and skills that will prepare them for the future and for adulthood.