Grant recipients hope student enthusiasm will spur action in neighboring communities. Watershed Management Group, an environmental nonprofit in Tucson, engages students to design and build rain gardens using native plants and trees, diverting storm water runoff from school buildings to water the gardens.
Students learn about extreme weather patterns and how rain gardens mitigate extreme heat and flooding. They calculate water flows and choose materials. Students and volunteers gather, typically on a Saturday, to build the gardens. School principals often order pizza.
On a recent morning, Riley Fletcher, age 13, checked temperatures throughout the rain garden that stretches along a side of Drachman Montessori K-8 Magnet School in Tucson.
She admired the long strip of desert willows, grasses and flowering plants that have flourished since the garden was built in 2018. Her class continues to make improvements to and monitor the garden, which soaks up an estimated 15,000 gallons of rainwater a year.
“When I first came to the school, it was dead dirt,” said Riley, an eighth grader. “Nature can really be beautiful and not only look that way, but it also helps the world."