Ten years ago, students in Joy McFadyen’s fifth grade class looked out their classroom window one rainy day and saw water pouring off the pavement and down the storm drain. They learned that storm water runoff from their parking lots drained into local ditches. And that the ditches flowed directly into the Saginaw Bay.
With the help of their community and GM mentor Jeff Jatczak, the students created rain gardens as a way to prevent unfiltered parking lot water from getting into the ditches, and ultimately into the Saginaw Bay. They even applied for a grant, receiving funds from the Bay City Community Foundation to subsidize most of the planting materials.
The smaller garden absorbs 6 inches of water and retains it for up to 36 hours, catching pollutants from the bus loop like heavy metals from brakes and engine residue, oil, rubber from tires, and dirt and silt tracked in by vehicles. Besides the six buses that park and idle twice daily in the loop, parents of the several soccer teams that practice here use the parking area in the evening. Needless to say, this rain garden was necessary to protecting the Saginaw Bay!
With all of that said, the legacy of this project is what’s most outstanding. Ten years later, the rain garden continues to be sustained by the local community, including many General Motors employees and, now retired educator, Joy McFadeyn. She credits Earth Force for creating these types of opportunities for youth to be environment problem-solvers and told me “Earth Force has been an active supporter of myself and other teachers over the past many years!”
And the practice she employed most in her classroom? Trust in her students ability to be change agents and drivers of their learning!
Every time I get to see the fruits of our programs firsthand, I am BLOWN away! There are so many people who care deeply about the environment and their communities. They are invested in the places where they live, work, and play. The power of our organization is its ability to create unlikely partnerships and lasting relationships. There is a commitment that is deep, unyielding and transformative.
That commitment will again be on display next week, as over 100 students, 20 GM mentors, countless community members, and one very committed educator come together in the rain garden to continue to protect their local waterways.
Author: Kristen Mueller
Kristen Mueller leads national communications, creating engagement and excitement around Earth Force, and its partners’, hands on, minds on programming. Specializing in traditional media and social media relations, she brings youth voice and leadership to the forefront of the environmental education field.