Caring For God's Creation

What do you get when you combine knowledge gained from a STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) Symposium, ideas from an outdoor education class, teachers from two different Catholic schools, a whole bunch of elementary school children, and a parcel of land within an 80-acre nature conservancy in Bellevue, Wisconsin?  A rain garden, of course!

rain garden beforeFaith Petrick, teacher at Resurrection Catholic School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, was one of over 240 participants at the 2014 STREAM Symposium held at the University of Dayton.  Hosted by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in partnership with the UD Center for Catholic Education, the symposium offered elementary and secondary educators and administrators the opportunity to learn from innovative, dynamic, nationally renowned speakers about fostering the integration of STREAM subjects.  Faith left the symposium inspired to do something with all the wonderful knowledge gained.  When she returned home, teachers from Resurrection and St. Matthew Schools (both in Green Bay, WI) discussed ideas for how to make the STREAM concept work for both schools, together. 

After many discussions, Faith, Fran Patek, teacher at Resurrection, and Kelly Benzschawel, teacher at St. Matthew, enrolled in an outdoor education class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.   It was a perfect pairing with the STREAM concept and the science curriculum that Fran teaches.  Faith, Fran, and Kelly were inspired to develop plans for a project that will continue to take form for several years to come: a rain garden that will reduce harmful rain water runoff.  Osprey Point, a conservancy area maintained by the Brown County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, was chosen for the location.

As of mid-October, students from both schools had worked on site for a total of 3 ½ hours to begin preparing the land.  In addition, they had taken virtual tours and studied the history of Izaak Walton.

rain garden afterWhat is in store for the future of the rain garden?

In connection with the STREAM concept, Fran, Faith and Kelly have been very conscious about integrating all academic content areas into this project.  Each group of mid-level students will develop a plan for the rain garden and plans will be voted on by parishioners at both parishes before further work at Osprey Point begins this spring. 

There will be more cleaning out of brush, tilling, plant identification, gridding, and planting.  With an objective of having color for the entire growing season, students will research plant and flower types, heights, and colors and they will also be asked to identify which plants are native to the region.  In addition to research and planning, upkeep of the rain garden is essential, so classes will go to Osprey Point to weed and water when needed. The goal is to have everyone take ownership of this project, including parents!

During the second year, elementary students will be asked to make and display garden art, plant stakes, help with garden clean up, and display garden signs. 

phenology chartPlans for the implementation of STREAM content include:

  • Science:  Plant identification, animal identification, zone appropriate plants, soil management, environmental science
  • Technology: 3D printing, QR (Quick Response) codes to display plant names in scientific and common names, QR codes to display a prayer and/or picture of the plant
  • Religion: Bible verses connected with the garden (creation story), prayers for the earth
  • Engineering: Use of 3D printers to make signs, concepts used to create and build bird houses
  • Art: Garden art, signage, music clips and verses that will be connected to the QR codes (created by students as well music not created by students)
  • Math: Calculate the number of plants needed to make the rain garden work as projected

It is the innovation, creativity, and dedication of engaging teachers such as those at Resurrection and St. Matthew Schools in Green Bay that bring alive the partnerships between higher education and Catholic elementary and secondary schools.

If you would like more information about this rain garden project, please contact Faith Petrick at fpetrick@gracesystem.org .