There was a great deal of excitement and activity on the campus of St. Margaret’s School (SMS) in Tappahannock, as students, faculty, and community partners came together to break ground for the school’s first-ever Rainscape Retrofit.

The school’s River Group, Green Team, and students earning community service credits joined forces with Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) and the Captain Planet Foundation to break up compacted soil around a drainage grate that was overwhelmed by heavy rains, allowing sediment into the drainage system until it clogged, inundating sidewalks and making it difficult to traverse this central hub of campus.

The River Group is a volunteer cadre of faculty and staff comprised of Cupper Dickinson, Jessie Dresch, Larry Foulk, Susan Foulk, Jeannette Nicewinter, and Milly Rixey. This group worked with leaders of the Green Team, a student group that spearheads the school’s recycling efforts, to identify the Rainscape Retrofit project.

Three years ago when I volunteered to take on coordinating River Days, an overnight camping experience for each of our grade-level classes, I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to beef up the environmental education component of the experience. To do so, I knew I wanted River Steward Richard Moncure and FOR to play a role. The relationship has turned into a friendship, and opportunities like this Rainscape Retrofit solidify my belief in the power of school-community partnerships to educate students and make a positive difference in the world.

Richard told the students, “People usually want to remove rainwater from their property as quickly as possible, with little thought given to the impact such a decision might have downstream. Compacted soil must be reconstituted and the ground around it must be reengineered in order to prevent sediment runoff. This rainscape will hopefully serve as an example to your neighbors, and the work being done here will be replicated throughout this area.”

Co-Captain of the Green Team, Yuki Mitsuda, a junior from Tokyo, Japan, said, “Caring for the environment in my country is so important. The river is part of our community here at SMS because we live so close to it. This rainscape is a creative way for us to work with FOR to do good things for the river.”

Students, faculty, and FOR staff began their day at 8:30a.m., finally wrapping up at 3:30p.m. The finished project may not look too different than a typical garden to the undiscerning eye, but for those who contributed to this effort, especially the students, there is a great sense of accomplishment and awareness of the importance of soil composition.

The partners who came together at St. Margaret’s School hope this project will spawn a heightened awareness of our human footprint in the world. As Richard told the group that morning, “Many hands lighten the load!” And they may just contribute to a better world for all to behold.

By Larry Foulk, SMS Faculty Member

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