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livinggreenheaderThanks to a collaborative project that’s putting stormwater management center stage in classrooms across Benson High School, the Benson High School Rain Garden Initiative was formed. The project brings together the City of Omaha, Omaha by Design, Benson High School (BHS), the Benson-Ames Alliance and Community ReDesigned to plan, design, install, maintain and promote a new rain garden on the grounds of the school.


“This is an incredible opportunity for our students to apply their classroom knowledge to a ‘real world’ project in real time,” said Lisa Dale, principal of Benson High School and chair of the Benson-Ames Alliance Steering Council. “It’s allowing them to think imaginatively, work in teams, interact with professionals, manage a project and present material in front of an audience. Our students recognize that these skills are going to serve them extremely well, no matter what they do.”


At the beginning of the fall semester, representatives from the partnership met with Benson faculty to determine their individual interests for participating in the project. The response, said Benson High School magnet coordinator Peggy Pavlik, was positive, and ran the gamut from math, earth science and chemistry instructors to those who teach computer aided drafting and marketing. Students then began work on the initiative by selecting a project name, logo, and location for the rain garden.


What is a rain garden?

A rain garden is a planted depression that allows runoff from impervious surfaces like parking lots and sidewalks to soak into the ground instead of flowing into storm drains and surface waters where it contributes to erosion, water pollution and flooding. These gardens, which use native plants, can cut down on the amount of pollution reaching local creeks by up to 30 percent.

Where is it located?

The garden will be located on the school’s southern edge near the old entrance. During the next six months, BHS students designed the layout of the garden, researched and selected appropriate plants for the garden, produced a conceptual design and layout, helped facilitate the construction bidding process, oversaw the construction of the garden and even helped promote it to the general public. The site now serves as an outdoor classroom for students.

How is it funded?

Funding for this project was provided by a grant from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to the City of Omaha for stormwater management implementation. “A key component of Omaha’s stormwater management program is education and outreach to the public,” said Nina Cudahy, Environmental Quality Control Manager with the city’s Public Works Department. “We are being challenged to change the way we manage stormwater, and the city values the importance of educating a younger generation about what we can do to improve water quality in our streams,” Cudahy said. “Benson High School’s magnet status, coupled with the Benson-Ames Alliance’s commitment to sustainability, made the school an ideal location for this education and outreach initiative.”

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