Northwest horticulture teacher, Rachel Burns, presented her
students with a unique challenge: Design a rain garden that will displace water
runoff during seasonal storms, minimize the amount of pollutants making their
way into the nearby Papio Creek and aid conservation efforts to provide
milkweed for the endangered Monarch butterfly.
“Many harmful chemicals that deposit into the Papio
Creek arrive via runoff,” said Burns. “The creek collects high amounts of E.
coli, oil hydrocarbons, lead, phosphorus, heavy metals and sediments. These
captured pollutants can be broken down over time in the rain garden and removed
through mulch absorption.”
While her students possess a vast knowledge of plant
growth and care, she knew they would need help interpreting the mechanics needed
to create a well-designed rain garden, so she teamed them up with UNO landscaping
students. A collaboration that was beneficial to both groups.
“Working with the UNO students was a tremendous help,”
said senior Shannon Atherington. “There’s a lot of information you have to know.
Like where plants need to be placed so they soak up the most runoff possible
and which plants work best where. We taught them how to care for plants in
return, so it worked out well.”
The 10’ X 10’ garden will not only serve to collect
runoff, it will also provide a prime hands-on learning environment for
horticulture students and STEAM classes as well as attract birds, butterflies and
other pollinators. More than 62 varieties of grasses, shrubs, perennials and
ferns will be used, including long-beaked sedge, bottlebrush buckeye, spicebush,
joe-pye weed, meadow blazing star, bee balm, milkweed, goldenrod and blue
vervain. Adding to its unique appeal is its butterfly shape, rock path and rock
“This is a space that future Northwest students will be able
to enjoy and where they can learn,” said junior David Carey. I’m proud to have
been a part of creating the garden and the practical experience I gained is
invaluable. This is a much better way to