The RiverWise Schools program highlights the benefits of providing hands-on watershed and water quality education through the installation of stormwater management practices, such as, rain gardens, rainwater harvesting, and native plant gardens or conservation landscapes. As these practices are installed on school properties, we engage and educate teachers and students about how they protect local waterways, additional ecosystem services they provide, and how these practices are integral to healthy streams and rivers. Upon installation of the practice, the long-term outdoor classrooms are available for teachers to use on a regular basis to provide real world knowledge of concepts tested in the Standards of Learning (SOL) exams. This project brings awareness to the effects of urban stormwater, how native plant gardens beautify and protect local streams, and how communities can work together to make an impact.
In 2015 we piloted this program with funds from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund (CBRF) and Altria. During the 2015/2016 school year we worked with Binford Middle School and Boushall Middle School, in Richmond, VA, to install a rain garden on site and develop a watershed curriculum that focuses on stormwater pollution and management techniques that are effective at school and at home. These two schools were very excited about the possibilities of incorporating the hands on learning experience in their watershed curriculum and having the Alliance as a partner for technical assistance. With additional funding from CBRF and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation we will to continue to grow the program through 2017, with plans to work with Lucille Brown Middle School and Martin Luther King Middle School in the 2016/2017 school year and to continue work at Binford.