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Longfellow Middle School Breaks Ground on Rainwater Conservation Garden

Two grants help fund project.

Fairfax County Public Schools officials, teachers, students and contributing donors gathered at on a fittingly rainy Tuesday morning for a groundbreaking ceremony celebrating the future implementation of their Rainwater Conservation Garden. It’s the first such project in the FCPS schools to implement two innovative green practices: roof rainwater harvesting and rain gardening.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation granted the middle school a $20,000 Chesapeake Bay small watershed grant to build the rain garden.  Additionally, the McLean Community Foundation issued Longfellow a $15,000 grant to install an above ground cistern (the only one in Fairfax County) that will be necessary to capture the roof rainwater runoff, filter and distribute it evenly amongst the native plants in the planned rain garden.

This will help improve water quality in the nearby Pimmit Run stream, which flows southeast into the Potomac River, while also preventing flooding and harmful toxin filled roof water runoff from reaching storm water drains.

The rain garden will be installed in an existing interior courtyard that will be stripped of its current concrete design and made over into an environmentally friendly learning atmosphere for Longfellow students.  It will be used as an outdoor classroom for science classes and environmentally friendly extracurricular activities at Longfellow.

“A group of faculty and community members started meeting when the school first went under renovation and their goal was to see how much we could green this school,” Beth Chung, a parent volunteer at Longfellow said of the project. “The students have worked up an amazing array of potential projects, they are going to be doing water quality and quantity monitoring in the garden for a long term period. Working with our partners at Fairfax County Storm Water Planning, our teachers and students are working up a methodology to show how a cistern and rain garden in combination can make a significant difference in purification of sediment and purities in the water.”

Chung wrote and submitted the grants that ultimately obtained funding for the rain garden. Longfellow eighth graders Ali Akbar, Christina Amaral, and Maya Chung were also on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony, as they have been leading the way for student involvement regarding the project.  Maya drew a mock sketch of what the rain garden will eventually look like, and will be gathering fellow eighth grade artists to paint the cistern when it is installed.

“This project not only gives the students, teachers, parents and staff a hands on experience to help transform their school but also provides generations to come an opportunity to enhance their learning,” Katherine Springer of Transurban Fluor Corporation said of the rain garden project. Transurban was one of several donor organization that helped with funding and was in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony.

The cistern and rain garden are scheduled to be complete in June of this year, and will be readily available for student use for the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

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