This week was the first week back for Empowered Eco-Ed! It was great to be back again and this year we had a whole new group of students to work with. Unlike the past few years, this year we worked with a little younger students—2nd and 3rd grade, instead of primarily 3rd through 5th graders, like in the past few years. Regardless of the students age however, I was still excited to get started!
We kicked off the quarter by learning about Rain Gardens. I was worried this topic would be a little too advanced for the students, so I tried by best to simplify the topic. Before we started the lesson however, we introduced ourselves and set some classroom rules. We asked the students what were some of the classroom rules they had in their own classes, and the students were eager to give us some rules! Some rules they suggested included keeping your hands to yourself and being nice to each other, both great rules! We also suggested raising one’s hand before speaking and always trying one’s best. For the most part, the students were good at following their own rules, although they sometimes forgot to raise their hands in their excitement to answer a question!
For the lesson, we started by asking students if they had ever heard of a rain garden before and asking them to guess what it might be. From the name “rain garden”, we can guess it has something to do with rain or water, and perhaps it is a type of garden? We explained how rain gardens are a special type of garden that cleans rainwater and prevents flooding.
After our brief introduction, we split the students into 3 rotating groups. The first group taught the students about different kinds of pollutants—things we don’t want in our water—that rain gardens help filter out of rainwater. To reinforce these ideas, we played a matching game with cards with different icons representing different pollutants. The kids loved the game and got very competitive!
The second group showed the students the impacts rain gardens can have on mitigating flooding with a flooding demo. We used metal aluminum pans and soil to emulate slopes and flat ground and added another layer of foil on top to act like impermeable pavement. Holes in the foil or uncovered soil areas represented unpaved areas, such as rain gardens. Then we poured water over to show how there was more accumulated water if there was lots of paved areas. However, the last rotation group was less effective as the soil became over-saturated with water after several demonstrations.
The last group drew and cut out bees and butterflies. While the students made their insects, we talked about how rain gardens can be beneficial to pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
For the final activity, we helped the students make mini rain gardens out of plastic water bottles, gravel, sand, soil, and plants, all stacked in the order they would be ordered in a real rani garden. After finishing the rain garden, kids could add water to the top and watch it filter through to the bottom and out of the bottle. The kids loved their little rain gardens and sometimes got a little over-enthusiastic with watering their plants to see the filtration demonstration!
Overall, the students were very sweet and very well behaved. I think some of the more complex topics may have gone over their head, but I think they understood the larger concepts. I can’t wait to work with them next week!