Seneca Valley’s Haine Middle School in Cranberry Township has won the grand prize in Pennsylvania’s Earth Day 40 Schools Challenge for its unique project to provide residents with rain barrels to conserve water and improve water quality, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary John Quigley announced on Earth Day, April 22.
“What made Haine Middle School’s rain barrel project stand out was its goal of educating community residents by providing a class and raising enough money to then provide participants with a rain barrel. That ensured they not only learned about the issue, but also took action to conserve and improve water quality,” Quigley said of the project undertaken by 5th graders at the school.
Haine Middle School “Rainkeepers” first researched what would help conserve water in their community and raised funds to purchase rain barrels. The students then conducted an instructional class on March 23 in partnership with Lorin Meeder, the environmental program director for Cranberry Township. Thirty rain barrels were given to township residents who attended the class.
A rain barrel system attaches to a gutter to catch rain water from the roof, preventing runoff. The water can then be used for watering a garden or washing a car.
“When learning about groundwater contamination in science we decided to explore Cranberry Township’s drinking water source,” said Steven Smith, principal at Haine Middle School. “That’s when we decided to help our community conserve water. As a result, we decided to teach people how rain barrels could help conserve and prevent runoff, and then took it a step further to actually provide the rain barrels.”
Smith credited teacher Allison Stebbins for guiding the students through research, outreach and fundraising to make the project a success.
The grand prize will transform Haine Middle School into a park for a day before the end of this school year, with classes including Frisbee golf, fishing skills practice, geology programs and nature walks. The prize also includes a $1,000 gift certificate to WARDS Scientific provided by Waste Management; 10 fishing rods with tackle provided by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission; a framed wildlife print provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission; Illuminating Education program materials, including a classroom supply of compact fluorescent light bulbs provided by the Department of Environmental Protection; and a plaque and a native tree for planting at the school provided by DCNR.