The American Littoral Society has been working on a great project in partnership with the Vineland Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce. We’d love to share our progress so far!
Rotary, the Chamber, and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have joined us in creating a rain barrel painting competition between the elementary schools in Vineland, NJ. The competition serves as a way to get the kids working together on a project, promotes rain barrels as a way to save water outdoors, and serves as a teaching tool for the concept of water conservation.
The first step was to gather the supplies and put the barrels together. The Littoral Society and DEP provided the barrels, while Ace Plumbing in Vineland generously donated the other supplies. Then the Rotarians put everything together at during a meeting.
Altogether we had enough barrels for all 12 elementary schools in Vineland, with a few left over that were sold to help pay for art supplies.
A few weeks later, Zach Nickerson, Education Outreach Coordinator from the Littoral Society's Millville office, was ready to begin presentations to the schools. Seven presentations were scheduled the first week, including all the 3rd through 5th grade classes at D’Ippolito, Winslow, Barse, Mennies, Sabater, and Petway schools, plus the K-2nd graders at Barse. The rest of the schools - Durand, Rossi, Compass Academy, Bishop Schad, Cumberland Christian, and Saint Mary’s - were reached over the next few weeks. The biggest group was about 350 kids!
Littoral Society Education Coordinator Zach Nickerson and Laura from Vineland Rotary and Vineland Chamber of Commerce
Presentations began by talking with the kids about some basic facts about water in the world. For instance, while over 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, less than 1% of that is liquid freshwater available for humans to drink. Then we zoomed in on our local area to talk about the Maurice River Watershed and Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer.
Using Petway as an example, zooming in to focus on the Maurice River Watershed and Menantico Creek subwatershed. Most of the schools were either here or the Parvin Branch subwatershed
After all the new sciencey terms like watershed and aquifer, and how the aquifer and surface waters are connected, Zach typically made things more fun for the kids by shifting to talking about some of the wildlife that relies upon abundant freshwater here in South Jersey. That included listening to some wildlife calls, then trying to identify what creature is making that sound.
Hint, they’re all amphipians.
Amphibians, including species found here in South Jersey such as the spring peeper, carpenter frog, fowler’s toad, and pine barrens tree frog, are particularly sensitive to changes in the water table because they, and in particular their eggs and tadpoles, live in very shallow pools of water. Even small changes due to overpumping the aquifer can have big impacts on their population.
Presentations also focused on benthic macroinvertebrates and how to tell the health of a stream based on which creatures you find there.
After a reminder about how the aquifer provides most of the water for our lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands, these talks turned to focus on another creature that relies on clean and abundant water resources: humans!
Finally, kids were given a chance to name all the ways they can think of that they use water and how they can save water. Then we moved on to the main event: rain barrels!
Where does the rain water usually go that falls on your roof? Well, it goes into the gutters, down the downspout, into the driveway, to the street, down the stormdrain, into your local stream or river, then down to the Delaware Bay.
There are all sorts of negative impacts on our freshwater ecosystems from increased stormwater runoff due to impervious surfaces, such as streets, parking lots, and other man-made structures that don't allow the ground to absorb water. Using a rain barrel helps to prevent this by capturing and storing water before it becomes runoff.
That always brought us to back to the project at hand: having students design and decorate a rain barrel for their school.
The Vineland Chamber of Commerce’s motto “Love Where you Live” provided the theme for the designs. Students were given the option to incorporate one of three sub categories: history, recreation and agriculture.
Participants will have a few months to finish their projects, with the final product being judged in May. First prize wins $500 for their school! Second prize is $300, and third prize is $200. Also, each school gets to keep their barrel to use in a school garden, to display, or to auction off as a fundraiser.
Frank Rumick from Vineland Rotary and Zach Nickerson from the Littoral Society
The Littoral Society would like to extend a special thanks to the Vineland Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce for making this project a success. We wish all of the students the best of luck in the competition and hope that they become lifelong South Jersey Watersavers!