Making Initial Plans
Making Initial Plans
Getting started is not as difficult as one might think. Just follow these steps:
- First, get a teacher or adult leader involved. Ask if he or she would be interested in providing advice, supervision, and support to students as they create a rain garden.
- Before anything is built on the school grounds, the permission of the school administrators, such as your principal, will need to be secured. It is also important to discuss the plans with the school's custodial staff. They will probably want to approve the exact location of the rain garden—and they may even be able to help with the project. Some schools have PTA members that are involved in making decisions about the schoolyard; if there are any such school groups, it would be a good idea to speak with them as well.
- Next, choose a location. This might be partly determined by the principal and/or maintenance staff. The most important aspect in choosing a good spot, however, is figuring out where the rain garden is needed most.
Where should the garden be?
Deciding where to put the rain garden can be almost as much fun as building the rain garden itself. There are some excellent activities in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's curriculum materials that can help you do this. (Copies of two activities, Schoolyard Report Card and The Bay Starts Here, are included in the Resources for Building a Rain Garden. You might find it useful to complete one of these before you begin.)
The goal is to find places in the schoolyard where rainwater regularly runs off of an impervious surface, such as a parking lot, a downspout from the roof, a hardened footpath, or a basketball court. Where does that water go? The rain garden should be positioned between the source of the rainwater runoff and the nearest waterway or storm drain. A very good way to really see what happens to runoff on the school campus is to walk the school grounds while it is raining—just remember to wear a raincoat!
What plants should be in the garden?
One factor that will determine how much money is going to be needed is the plants you choose to put in the rain garden. Depending on the time of year the rain garden is going to be built, potted plants or seeds may be used. The rain garden may be seeded any time after the last frost in the spring or before the first frost in the fall. Normally, potted plants should be used only if the rain garden is going to be built in the summer, when seeds would have trouble growing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service booklet Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat is an excellent resource for choosing which plants to put in your rain garden. (See Resources for Building a Rain Garden.)
Whatever plants the group chooses, they should be able to withstand periods of heavy water along with times when there is very little moisture. Because native plants are accustomed to the conditions around the school, using native plants will greatly increase the chance of the garden's survival. Native plants are also very good for attracting local wildlife.
How should the garden be paid for?
Materials, like lumber, tools, soil, and plants are needed to complete the rain garden, and these materials cost money. There are many ways to get funding for materials. For example, a fundraiser could be held at school, a grant may be obtained, or the principal may be able to allot money from the school's budget.
However the money is raised for the rain garden, students will need to have a good idea of how much the supplies will cost. Actual costs will depend on the size of the rain garden and the plants chosen. Using a materials chart similar to the one below will help students estimate how much money they will need. (Note: The prices in the chart are estimates. Actual costs may vary.)
|Material||Quantity||Price Each||Total Price||Source|
|2-inch x 12-inch #1 treated pine board||3||$15.00||$45.00||Hardware store|
|2-foot steel rebar||10||$ .96||$9.60||Hardware store|
|Stainless steel elbow brackets w/screws||2||$7.00||$14.00||Hardware store|
|40-lb. bag topsoil||4||$3.00||$12.00||Donated by Nice Guy Landscaping Co.|
|20-lb. bag sand||1||$5.00||$5.00||Donated by Nice Guy Landscaping Co.|
|40-lb. bag mulch||1||$3.00||$3.00||Donated by Nice Guy Landscaping Co.|
|Straw bale||1||$5.00||$5.00||Donated by Sally's Dad|
|Screwdriver||1||$4.00||$4.00||Borrow from maintenance|
|Hammer||1||$12.00||$12.00||Borrow from maintenance|
|Shovels||3||$20.00||$60.00||Borrow from home|
|Rakes||2||$10.00||20.00||Borrow from home|
|Plants||30||$3.00||$90.00||Donated by Hometown Nursery|
Prices will vary, depending on where the items are purchased. Not everything on this list will be needed, and some items not listed may be needed. The budget will also depend on what kinds of plants are used, how many are used, and what size garden is designed. Remember, if materials can be borrowed or donated, they can be subtracted from the actual cost of the project. In other words, the total cost of materials in this sample budget is $279.60, but the group only needs to raise $68.60 because many of the items have been donated or borrowed. Remember also that parents and neighbors may be willing to donate plants and flowers from their own gardens.