Rain garden whets kids’ appetite for STEM careers
By DENISE DICK
Maggie Carlson, 10, smoothed the soil around the cardinal flower she planted outside MS Consultants downtown.
“The flowers on it are red,” said Maggie, a fifth-grader from Liberty.
The plant flourishes in both wet and sunny conditions, she explained.
That made it an ideal selection for a rain garden.
Maggie was one of about 20 students in the Summer Manufacturing Institute who pitched in Friday to build a rain garden behind MS Consultants’ East Federal Street building.
The SMI is a collaboration between Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology and the YWCA of Youngstown. Participating students learn about careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and meet industry professionals, visit manufacturing facilities and work on engineering challenges.
A rain garden is a shallow depression with plants, native or cultivated, that tolerate both wet and sunny conditions, said Courtney Boyle, an environmental engineer at MS.
A rain garden helps absorb water runoff in a heavy rain event. On the other hand, water runs off hard or impervious surfaces such as streets, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots, causing flooding.
A rain garden also cleans water that flows through, helping to filter pollutants that could end up in storm sewers, ponds and streams.
“A rain garden should be at least 10 feet from your home to keep water away from the foundation,” Boyle said.
It should be positioned near downspouts, driveways or uphill from low areas that collect water.
“It should be 10 percent of the area that drains to it,” Boyle said.
It can be from 4 inches to 24 inches deep. If the soil in your yard includes a lot of clay, it may be removed and replaced with topsoil.
Building the rain garden was a collaboration among MS, the Summer Manufacturing Institute, the YWCA and Youngstown State University’s STEM College. Murphy Construction of Youngstown excavated the area for the rain garden, and Second Nature Landscape Services of Austintown helped with landscaping.
Rich Ciotola, an adjunct YSU professor who also teaches at Eastern Gateway Community College, said many of the plants included in the rain garden are those that you see in the wild in this region.
That includes spiderwort, which, despite its name, produces pretty purple blooms; columbine, irises and cardinal plants.
Maintenance is about the same as any flower bed, Ciotola said. It should be weeded and watered when needed.
Ciotola helped Peter Fitzgerald, 9, a fourth-grader at Gesu School of Cleveland, plant a marsh marigold.
Wearing a hard hat and a pair of rubber boots, Peter explained the marsh marigold’s inclusion in the rain garden.
“It can stand wet and also can be dry,” he said.