April showers bring May flowers, but the rain also means headaches for gardeners who find it difficult to eliminate wet spots in the backyard.
Juniors at Olathe North High School developed a workshop to teach area residents how to use those spots to their advantage while protecting the environment.
Johnson County residents rolled up their sleeves and got to work May 4 at a rain garden workshop at the high school, where Geoscience Academy students presented a slideshow on how to construct rain gardens and offered a hands-on workshop on how to make rain barrels.
“The students do all of the research for their presentation in order to help to spread their message of caring for the environment,” said Marsha Skoczek, science teacher at Olathe North’s Geoscience Academy.
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“Our hope is that the workshop participants go out and join us as ambassadors to spread the word about environmental awareness.”
Olathe School District’s Geoscience Academy, established in 2003 at Olathe North and Olathe Northwest, is an academic program in which students can apply. Those accepted incorporate it into their regular curriculum. In the program, students can study topics like meteorology, oceanography and paleontology.
Rain gardens are gardens planted in wet, soggy areas of a yard to absorb rainwater, said Angela Epps, facilitator at Olathe School District’s Geoscience Academy. They are also one of the best practices for managing storm water.
“We have a lot of clay in our soil, so it’s hard to get the water sometimes to go down into the ground, and it runs off,” Epps said. “When those plants get established, their roots grow very deep and then the water percolates through the root system into the ground instead of out.”
Involving community in helping conserve water is one of many goals behind the workshops, which occur twice every May. The water collected in rain barrels, for example, can be used to water the garden, Epps said.
Olathe North junior Marah Williams, 17, said rain gardens provide homes for the monarch butterfly as well as help with water quality. Attending the workshops, she said, raises awareness around environmental issues like the cutting down of trees.
“Urbanization is just overwhelming now,” Williams said. “So people building rain gardens in their backyards help those monarchs and other species of animals have a home and have a habitat again.”
Many attendees echoed Williams’ concerns.
“We are concerned about climate change,” said Olathe resident Nathan Nebelsick, 29, who participated in the workshop with his wife, Jessica. “We want to take care of what we have.”
Olathe resident Theo Schubert, 74, said she hopes to use her new rain barrel to water a butterfly garden in her backyard.
“We all need to be doing whatever we can to salvage our precious environment, creatures, everything,” Schubert said.
The district plans to expand its academies this fall at Olathe West, South and East to include programs like green tech and public safety.