Rain Gardens and Your Environment

Teacher(s): John Maliepaard
Main Contact: John Maliepaard Email: jmaliepaard@godfrey-lee.org
Date: 06/15/12 Building: Godfrey Elementary School Grade Level: 4th Grade
Semester:  Global Safari Summer Program

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Project Overview

Give a brief overview of the project you are planning.

Students are to be introduced to nature, likely to a greater depth than they have before. Students also will learn to distinguish what is a healthy natural environment, as well as how human habitation can threaten that health. Students will take on a project to help improve this interaction between human habitation and nature; specifically, students will learn about hazards such as runoff, and how rain gardens can help. The children will participate in learning about, advocating for, helping with (and possibly even helping with building from scratch) rain gardens.


Effective Practice: MEANINGFUL SERVICE

Service learning actively engages participants in meaningful and personally relevant service activities.

What community need will you address and how did you determine the need?

The community need we will address involves the impact of storm water runoff on area ground and surface waters. The information used to determine the need came to me from various sources, including the likes of WMEAC (Western Michigan Environmental Action Council).

What service will you provide to address the need?

Students will advocate for, help with, and possibly help create rain gardens. They will generally become knowledgeable citizens, and this knowledge that they gain alone will provide a service to the community.


Effective Practice: LINK TO CURRICULUM

Service learning is intentionally used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.

How is this project related to your curriculum?

Students will be practicing their reading skills when learning about environmental issues. They will also be practicing their writing when communicating with community members and leaders regarding these issues. Math skills will be practiced when calculating the likes of how much water runs off of houses of a given size, etc.

What are the educational goals?

Students will fine-tune their reading and writing and math skills. Students also will learn about good citizenship and stewardship, and working together.


Curriculum Crafter Connections www.curriculumcrafter.com

Strand: 04SCI: (Science Processes)
TLW: Demonstrate an understanding that scientific inquiry and reasoning involves observing, questioning, investigating, recording, and developing solutions to problems by estimating and measuring weight, mass and volume. (Gist: Estimation and Measurement)

Strand: 04ELA: (Writing)
TLW: TLW compose business letters, using legible cursive writing or word processing and correct format. (Gist: Business Communications)

Strand: 04ELA: (Reading)
TLW: Read and analyze narrative and informational texts, using reading strategies to identify theme or main idea. (Gist: Narrative and Informational Text)

Additional State Standards and Benchmarks

List standards and benchmarks met by this project.

  • K-7 Standard S.IP: Develop an understanding that scientific inquiry and reasoning involves observing, questioning, investigating, recording, and developing solutions to problems.
  • K-7 Standard S.IA: Develop an understanding that scientific inquiry and investigations require analysis and communication of findings, using appropriate technology.
  • K-7 Standard L.OL: Develop an understanding that plants and animals (including humans) have basic requirements for maintaining life which include the need for air, water, and a source of energy. . . .
  • E.ES.M.4 Human Consequences- Human activities have changed the land, oceans, and atmosphere of the Earth resulting in the reduction of the number and variety of wild plants and animals, sometimes causing extinction of species


Effective Practice: REFLECTION

Service learning incorporates multiple challenging reflection activities that are ongoing and that prompt deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s relationship to society.

What form(s) of reflection will you use with the students to help them identify what they have learned and accomplished?

Students will journal about their learning and field experiences. They are intended to apply what they’ve learned into action; that is, acting as advocates to change or at least ameliorate something harmful that is going on. They also may choose to participate in the likes of creating rain gardens and/or raising money for them.


Effective Practice: DIVERSITY

Service learning promotes understanding of diversity and mutual respect among all participants.

What types of diverse perspectives and experiences will be explored as part of your project?

(i.e.: cultural, generational, abilities/disabilities, learning styles, etc.)

Students will learn about how our culture, in contrast to some of those from the past, has wrought a certain level of harm to the environment. Now, however, many people, many of them young, are raising an outcry over what’s been done, and they want to see things improved. We may also look into how different cultural lifestyles, now and in the past, have had varying levels of impact on the environment.


Effective Practice: YOUTH VOICE

Service learning provides youth with a strong voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service learning experiences with guidance from adults.

How will students gain ownership of the project?

After students have been provided with schema regarding nature and humans’ interaction with the environment, they will be presented with opportunities to discuss and identify things that could be done to improve the current scenario. They will be guided toward identifying the establishment of rain gardens as one means toward improving humans’ interaction with the environment. Students will be involved from the start in gathering more information, communicating in writing to community members and leaders, and they’ll have a choice as to how they want to get involved, whether as a weeder, a planter, an advocate, etc.



Service learning partnerships are collaborative, mutually beneficial, and address community needs.\

Who will you partner with for this project?

We will partner with Western Michigan Environmental Action Council, area government entities, businesses, community members, and whoever else the children want to work to partner with.

  • Kristine Szurna (WMEAC) T4watershed@WMEAC.org 1007 Lake Drive SE Grand Rapids, MI 49506
  • Anthony Puzzuoli (WMEAC) apuzzuoli@wmeac.org 1007 Lake Drive SE Grand Rapids, MI 49506
  • Alex Graeff (WMEAC member and volunteer) alex.graeff@gmail.com
  • Kelsey Huisman (WMEAC member and volunteer) kelseyhuisman@gmail.com
  • Likely some folks at GM and The City of Wyoming yet to be identified

How will students benefit from this partnership?

Students will benefit from this partnership by honing their communication and teamwork skills. They’ll benefit from an improved sense of community, too.

How will the partner benefit from this collaboration?

The partner will benefit by gaining a greater awareness regarding an important environmental issue, and hopefully partners will be prompted into building, or at least supporting the building of, rain gardens. They’ll benefit from an improved sense of community, too.



Service learning engages participants in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting specified goals, and uses results for improvement and sustainability.

How will you assess the student learning goals?

I will assess students’ learning goals by reviewing their reading comprehension of selected materials, their writing to see that it is well formed and makes sense, their math for accuracy.

How will you assess your service goals?

I will assess our service goals by looking to see that we made a difference, that students have taken steps to advocate for a solution to the subject problem, and have done their best to take part in the solution as well. In addition to listening to class discussions, I will look at journal entries to assess whether children have in fact learned good citizenship and stewardship attitudes.



Service learning has sufficient duration and intensity to address community needs and meet specified outcomes.

How will you prepare students for this experience?

Students will first of all gain a greater understanding and appreciation of nature through field trips and other activities designed to accomplish that. With the use of guest speakers and field trips, students also will be introduced to why water runoff can present a problem for our environment.

What are some sample possible activities students might do as part of this project?

Examples of activities students might do as part of this project include:

  • researching, reading, and writing about nature, and what it takes for our environment to be healthy
  • researching, reading, and writing about problems that human habitation has caused to nature
  • researching, reading, and writing about what we can do about these problems
  • choosing a personal path to follow toward helping with these problems
  • advocating, verbally and/or in writing, for solutions to the runoff issue
  • touring Grand Rapids’ wastewater treatment plant, as well as the rain garden that is on the grounds there
  • taking part in weeding and other maintenance at that rain garden, and possibly at others
  • advocating, in writing, for the creation of government incentives, and the like, for the creation of rain gardens



The three arms of sustainability are environmental stewardship, economic growth, and social progress. Think planet, profit, and people.

Describe how your project addresses the issue of sustainability?

The project addresses the stewardship arm of sustainability through directly addressing the issue of storm water runoff, which presents a danger to our surface and ground waters, and to all related ecosystems.

The creation of rain gardens can benefit local sellers of seeds, plants, and know-how. From what I’ve been told, too, no one in the Grand Rapids area specializes in the development of rain gardens, so there could be a fine economic niche there for someone. Developed rain gardens also are pleasing to the eye. If a community develops greater aesthetic appeal, that alone can help stimulate economic growth.

Social progress will be addressed in that the project will involve elements of teamwork and community-building toward a cause that benefits everybody. Students’ work to increase general awareness regarding the environment and what we can do to make things better can only prompt social progress.