Tuesday, November 29, 2016

2016 Outstanding Partner Award – Paul Diegnau


Paul Diegnau (left) is presented an award by RWMWD's Bill Bartodziej (right)




"Fore!"

bloink!

Your ball goes into the water and the wood ducks turn, frogs leap, and turtles abandon their perch on a fallen log.

Are you hitting golf balls into the lake at your cabin? No, you’re playing a full 18 holes at Keller Golf Course. Thanks to the efforts of golf course superintendent, Paul Diegnau, you’re sharing the course (or more specifically, the water hazards) with dozens of other creatures.



Keller Golf Course's hole 15 was the first restoration collaboration.
Done in 2004, this standard mow-to-shore water hazard became a beautiful and functional
habitat that quickly became seen as an amenity to the course. (Left: before / Right: after)
 

Paul has been with the Keller Golf Course for over 21 years. During that time he has been able to successfully meld golf with natural resources management and has partnered on numerous ecological restoration and storm water management projects on the course. In all, 26 acres of no-play area have been restored to high-quality native habitat, and 75 percent of the runoff from the course is directed into an infiltration basin that helps to recharge groundwater.


For that, we are proud to award him with the 2016 Outstanding Partner Award. This award recognizes an individual, organization or business that effectively collaborates with Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District to achieve exceptional results in water resources management. 

 


The collaboration strategy between RWMWD and Keller Golf Course was to thoughtfully combine golf with ecological restoration and water management. It began with a single buffer area restoration around a water hazard in 2004. This area became a course amenity to both the golfers and wildlife. In 2013 and 2014, the course went through a major renovation, at which time Paul and RWMWD secured grant money to restore an additional fifteen acres of no-play area, including pond and wetland buffers, woodlands, and prairie. During that time Paul opened up the course to hundreds of local school children to learn about ecological restoration and be a part of the planting process. 

 


Thanks to Paul, Keller now has the most and the highest quality natural areas of any course in the Metro area. These areas compose a critical refuge within the Phalen Chain of Lakes Corridor, and have earned the course status as an Audubon International Certified Golf Course.
 
Paul having fun at WaterFest, dressed
as a stormwater goalie.





It’s with great thanks that we celebrate his accomplishments with this award. We appreciate Paul’s partnership, his leadership, and willingness to take a chance on some very innovative ideas to improve our watershed.









Enjoy a few more photos from this award-winning course and Paul's involvement below.

 
Hole 5 buffer restoration with blue iris in bloom

Hole 12 buffer restoration around the large infiltration basin
with Joe pye weed in bloom

Hole 16 prairie restoration undergoing a prescribed burn
to boost native seed germination

Hole 16 a few months after the above prescribed burn
with abundant native blooms

Students working on one of the many native plantings
take a break to look for golf balls in the rough.

Hole 4 green surrounded by mature oaks and restored prairies

Construction of the large groundwater recharge infiltration basin
took place during the major 2013/2014 course renovation.

Paul (left) and RWMWD's Bill Bartodziej (right)
have a good time volunteering at our annual WaterFest.
Paul (left) at the 2016 Recognition Dinner, held at the Keller Golf
Course Clubhouse, prior to receiving an award of his own.


2016 Innovation & Engineering Excellence Award - Brad Lindaman

by Dana Larsen-Ramsay



Brad Lindaman receives award from Cliff Aichinger, retired administrator and current Board of Managers member.

Brad Lindaman has worked closely with Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District for 28 years, since 1989. He has been a strong partner and supporter to retired RWMWD Administrator, Cliff Aichinger. Together Brad and Cliff developed and grew the District into the cutting edge entity it is today. They have also branched out into new territory with ecosystem-wide management and upland plantings, in addition to the more traditional role of water and flood management.

 
Brad (blue) and RWMWD Water Quality Monitoring
Coordinator, Eric Korte, assess erosion along a creek bank
Brad has worked with his team at Barr Engineering to forge this new management style and provide the scientific background and data needed to support Watershed staff along this journey. 

As Vice President and Senior Water Resources Engineer at Barr Engineering, Brad has been a consistent influence at the Watershed, serving as the primary consulting engineer for the District. He has served as lead engineer on numerous capital improvement projects and has helped research, plan, critique and design projects, including collaboration on the development of lake management plans and golf course improvement projects, most recently, the beautifully redeveloped Keller Golf Course.
 
Brad has helped lead many tours throughout the district as he is
able to easily explain complex engineering strategies to any audience.

Brad served the District during the 1990's while the District completed numerous flood-control projects and began its transition into managing more for water quality improvement with capital projects and into our recent volume-control projects and incentive programs. In this capacity, Brad has shown us that he can assemble a talented team of engineers, landscape designers and planners that are appropriate for our multi-purpose projects. 
 
Brad on site assessing an issue. The
wheels are always turning with this one.
Brad has assisted staff with storm water management problem-solving and with day-to-day operations. He has presented at countless meetings, visited countless sites and helped influence the solutions, improvements and enhancements accomplished within the District over the years.

Always willing to lend a hand, Brad is an adept presenter who is able to explain complex projects in terms everyone can understand. He is well-known and respected in his field and his work has benefited many communities, both within and outside the Watershed District. In addition, Brad is an enjoyable person to work with and is a valuable asset to every team! 

Brad’s talents go beyond engineering...he even helped to author and perform an amazing Watershed-customized song to celebrate Cliff’s retirement as District’s Administrator in 2014.

Since Cliff’s retirement, Brad continues to support and team with the Tina Carstens, the current RWMWD Administrator, and the Watershed staff as they continue to carry the torch, working to preserve and enhance water and natural resources, helping to improve projects and redevelopment for residents and businesses within the Watershed District.

Brad Lindaman is making a positive impact in the environment and is an outstanding innovator and excellent engineer with Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District. 
We are proud of his many accomplishments and delighted to award him with the Innovation and Engineering Excellence Award.

2016 Roger Lake Award for Excellence - Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson, Board of Managers member, receives his award from Tina Carstens, District Administrator

Our Roger Lake Award for Excellence is an award that we give to an individual that exemplifies the dedication of our long-time Board of Managers President, Roger Lake. We view this award as a confirmation of a high-level of dedication and commitment to the RWMWD.

This year’s award recipient is Bob Johnson. Bob was appointed to the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District Board on November 5, 1986 - almost exactly thirty years ago. It is fitting, therefore, that we acknowledge this long-term commitment to the District on his 30th anniversary with a prestigious award.
 
Bob (second from right) accepting an award in 1999 along
with the other RWMWD Board of Managers at the time
Bob served as a Board Manager from the Highwood neighborhood of St. Paul. He provided a very important representation of this area in the wake of the recent construction of the Battle Creek Flood Control Project and the concerns over neighborhood flooding and bluff land erosion. 

Shortly after his appointment, there was a significant effort expended on the study of the Fish Creek Watershed that led to a major project to stabilize the creek and its steep banks. Bob also continued to advocate for the improvement of the Lower Afton Road Sub-watershed and a headwaters pond that we came to lovingly refer to as "Johnson Pond". It took a number of years for this project to rise to the top of our Capital Improvements Program, but Bob maintained a justified concern for its completion.

 
Bob presented retiring RWMWD Administrator, Cliff Aichinger,
with a hand-crafted "To-It Plaque" at Cliff's retirement party.

Bob served a valuable liaison to the St. Paul District 1 Council, first as a Council Board member and later as a knowledgeable local resident with good contacts in the community. Bob has been instrumental in maintaining a good relationship with our St. Paul and Ramsey County elected representatives.

 Board members in 2012, from left to right: Paul Ellefson (retired), Jack Frost
(retired), Bob Johnson and Pam Skinner - Not pictured, Roger Lake
He continued on the Board as a strong advocate for comprehensive watershed management planning and worked closely in the development and reviews of the District's 1987, 1997, 2007 and the current draft 2017 District Plan. Bob has always served as a thorough reviewer of staff prepared materials and has kept staff and engineers always thinking about potential new approaches to addressing our water quality and quantity problems.


Bob has been an unwavering supporter of a professional District staff and our own Watershed District office and for this, we are extremely grateful.


 
Board of Managers meet with staff and stakeholders at monthly meetings

We thank Bob for his past, current and future support and his dedication and commitment to the Board of Managers. We think Roger Lake would be extremely pleased that we are recognizing Bob with this award.


 
Current board members from left to right: Cliff Aichinger, Pam Skinner,
Jen Oknich, Marj Ebensteiner and Bob Johnson
 
Retired Board of Managers member, Paul Ellefson, (left),
with Bob Johnson, (right) at the 2016 Recognition Dinner

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Big Yellow Excavators Improve Local Fishery

By Bill Bartodziej

 



How can big yellow excavators improve a local fishery and create a safeguard against carp in the Phalen Chain of Lakes?

Let’s back up before we answer this question.

Markham Pond is at the headwaters of the Phalen Chain of Lakes and drains into Kohlman Creek, which feeds Lake Kohlman. About six years ago, Markham Pond was identified as a carp nursery area. Thousands of carp, young and old, had the ability to migrate down into and infest the main lakes in the Phalen Chain. Carp are bottom feeders that stir up sediments, release nutrients and can negatively impact water quality. 
 






Markham Pond is a shallow system, with a maximum depth of four feet. During harsh winters, it’s likely that game fish species, like bluegill sunfish and largemouth bass, froze out and died. However, carp are a very resilient species and can handle winter conditions in shallow lakes and ponds.

Over the last couple of winters, Markham Pond was drawn down (or drained) in order to manage the carp population. This year, summer sampling in the pond revealed a few native fish species, like minnows, green sunfish, and bullhead, but no common carp. 
We took that as a sign that we were successful in significantly reducing carp and eliminating this threat to the Phalen Chain of Lakes.

University of Minnesota Carp Research Team
netting carp on Markham Pond
So the bad guys that threaten water quality are gone, end of story, right?

Wrong. Carp are stealthy and reproduce like crazy, and have to potential to explode in Markham again. What can we do to naturally control carp in Markham? The surprising solution was actually discovered in our watershed by the University of Minnesota’s Carp Research Team; bluegill sunfish zealously consume carp eggs, acting as a biological control mechanism. Carp have a very difficult time successfully reproducing in lake and pond systems with high bluegill populations. Thus, reintroducing a healthy bluegill population in Markham Pond will create a safeguard against the re-establishment of a substantial carp population.  
 
Bluegill's appetite for carp eggs should keep the carp population in check.

So how do we improve habitat for bluegill sunfish and other game fish in Markham Pond and help them survive the winter? A reasonable approach is to create a deep water refuge by excavating a wide and deep hole for game fish to hunker down in during the cold months. This fall the watershed is in the process of drawing down the pond by opening up a water control structure. A dry pond bottom will make it easier for excavators and earth moving equipment to do their work this winter.


 
The Plan
 
Pond levels are down as we intentionally lower
the lake level in anticipation of construction.

During January and February, we plan to remove accumulated sediment that has washed into the pond and create a fourteen foot deep refuge almost an acre in size. A grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will help support this work. The paved parking lot at the north end of Hazelwood Park will be used as the construction site entrance and equipment staging area.


Next spring, the pond will be filled back up again and the watershed will work with the DNR to stock game fish species. This deeper refuge area will not freeze to the bottom, even during harsh winters, and will have suitable dissolved oxygen levels for game fish.

Additional benefits of the project will include increased recreational fishing opportunities, robust aquatic plant growth, enhancement of wildlife habitat, reduced pond bottom re-suspension from carp activities and, hence, improved water quality in Markham Pond and downstream waters in the Phalen Chain of Lakes.

So when you drive by Markham Pond this winter and see big yellow backhoes digging away, be assured that this work will help to improve our fisheries and preserve the water quality in the Phalen Chain of Lakes.

Learn to Grow Native!

By Sage Passi

Harmony Learning Center Adult ESL
 student models a cardinal flower mask
 at a Watershed District Office tour.

Photo credit: Sage Passi

Big River Big Woods, a Wild Ones Chapter in the East Metro area of the Twin Cities, partnered with our Watershed District, along with their sister organization, Twin Cites Wild Ones, for a showing of the film "Hometown Habitat" at the Ramsey County Roseville Library in late October.

The film emphasized how and why native plants are critical to the survival and vitality of local ecosystems. Nearly eighty people watched this documentary that tells the story of projects around the county that have energized communities to use native plants to solve a variety of issues and improve water quality.








We are excited to be building a partnership with this organization, Wild Ones. Together we can participate in the work and pleasure of promoting native plants and native landscapes.


Master Water Stewards, Linda Neilson and Hallie Finucane, hosted a table to highlight their capstone outreach project and interface with the public, providing photos of their recently completed rain gardens in Roseville, near Bennett Lake. Wild Ones members answered questions and offered resources.



Graphic from Big River Big Woods Wild Ones website


Big River Big Woods Board invites you to help their Wild Ones Chapter grow! They meet monthly. Everyone is welcome! Visit
their website for details.

Check out some of the exciting opportunities that Wild Ones is offering in the coming months.


Join Big River Big Woods for a celebration of their first year as a Wild Ones Chapter!
Thursday, November 17
Autumn Grove Park Building, 1365 Lydia Avenue W, Roseville
6:00 PM - Social time with appetizer and dessert potluck / 7:00 – 8:30 PM - Meeting
 

Lynn Steiner in Steiner prairie;
author shot
Lynn Steiner - Garden Writer & Photographer
Grow Native: Bringing Natural Beauty to Your Garden


Learn more about responsible gardening, creating a beautiful garden where we can satisfy our love of tending plants without causing further damage to the natural world. Inspirational photos of native-plant landscapes help people get started in environmentally friendly native-plant gardening that will be attractive to birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. The program also highlights special situations where native plants are great choices, such as rain gardens, boulevard gardens, and shade.
 

Lynn Steiner is one of the Upper Midwest’s best-known garden writers and a frequent speaker at gardening and environmental events. She is the author and photographer of several books advocating the effective use of native plants typical home landscape. Landscaping with Native Plants of Minnesota, the first book designed to identify Minnesota’s native plants and plant communities and to demonstrate how to use them effectively in a typical home landscape, was a finalist in the 2006 Minnesota Book Awards in the Science and Nature Category.

Lynn’s most recent book, Grow Native: Bringing Natural Beauty to Your Garden, will be available for purchase (cash or check).



2017 Wild Ones Big Woods Meetings

Seed Exchange and Seed Sowing Workshop
Thursday, January 26
6:00 PM - Social Time / 7 – 8:30 PM - Meeting

Join us for native seed sowing and get a head start growing native plants for spring! Please save and bring quart yogurt and lids: rinse them thoroughly. If you have seeds to share, label them with common and scientific names, plus the seed source if you know it.


Design with Nature Conference—Planting Matters
Saturday, February 18

Anderson Student Center, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul Campus

  • Douglas Tallamy—Are Introduced Plants “Bad”? Professor & Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, University of Delaware, author of Bringing Nature Home
  • Peter Reich—Principal Investigator, Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve; Senior Chair in Forest Ecology and Tree Physiology, Regents Professor University of Minnesota
  • Natalie Shanstrom—Sustainable Architect, Kestrel Design Group
  • Details coming at www.designwithnatureconference.org

Plant Identification for Everyone
Thursday, March 23

6:00 PM - Social Time / 7 – 8:30 PM - Meeting

Katy Chakya and Peter Dzuik, from MNWildowers.info will share amazing photographs as we discover the website that they have developed for identifying Minnesota native and non-native plants.


Invasive Plants: Know Thy Enemy

Thursday, April 27
6:00 PM - Social Time / 7 – 8:30 PM - Meeting

Are invasive plants driving you mad? Discover how to identify and manage invasive plants in your yard with Kao Thao, Naturalist, Fort Snelling State Park.

Native Plant Gardening Best Practices and Projects

Thursday, May 25
6:00 PM - Social Time / 7 – 8:30 PM - Meeting

Join us for a Big River Big Woods Project Roundtable! Learn about restoration projects we are helping to sponsor and volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood. Share ideas on these projects and help plan next steps. The evening will begin with a presentation on the Como Park restoration and Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom.

Following the presentation, the group will break out into roundtables where project coordinators will describe sponsored projects and lead discussions related to those projects.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Skip Raking this Fall

By Angie Hong
Reprinted from the blog East Metro Water, Tips and Tales about Keeping Water Clean, Nov. 1, 2016


 
What if someone told you that you could skip raking your leaves this fall? Sam Bauer, an assistant professor for Minnesota Extension, is spreading the word to weary Minnesotans everywhere – raking your leaves is a waste of time, do something else with your energy.


It turns out that raking leaves off of your lawn can actually be counter-productive. "The leaves have organic matter in them,” Bauer said in an interview with the Washington Post. “You're adding good organic matter to your soil when you're not picking them up." Instead of raking, Bauer recommends that you mow your lawn a few times as the leaves are falling to break them up into little pieces that decompose more rapidly. If you have a very heavy coating of leaves, you may need to remove some and add them to your gardens or compost pile, but the rest can be shredded and left where they are.


Leaves contain vital nutrients like phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium that turf grass and other plants need to grow. In fact, these nutrients are the exact same ones found in compost and commercial fertilizers. Leaves, however, are free and readily available to most Minnesota homeowners. During the course of the winter, the leaves decompose under the snow and release nutrients into the soil. In addition, research at Michigan State University suggests that leaf litter can help to suppress weeds like dandelions from growing the next spring. On their own test plots at University of Minnesota, Extension experts like Bauer have found that mulching your leaves in the fall, as well as leaving grass clippings on the lawn during the rest of the year, provides enough nutrients to replace one standard application of fertilizer per year. 


While the nutrients in leaves might be good for your lawn, they can still spell trouble for local wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams when they end up in the street. Leaves wash into storm drains that connect to local waterways, and the phosphorus and nitrogen released feeds algae in the water. This contributes to more algae blooms and poorer water quality the next summer. In addition, fall rains can turn leaves in the street into a soggy mess that clogs up storm drains and contributes to localized flooding. Some people make the mistake of dumping their leaves into nearby wetlands or ravines that drain to rivers and streams, because it seems like an easy and natural way to get rid of them. Instead, the leaves send a pulse of nutrients into the wetlands and streams and can make the water turn green and slimy in the spring. For this reason, most cities have ordinances that prohibit residents from dumping leaves and other yard waste into wetlands and buffer areas.


So why do so many people rake their lawns each fall if it’s actually better to leave the leaves there? According to Bauer, people tend to do things out of habit regardless of whether they're actually useful. "Everyone thinks that your lawn needs to be watered every other day, too," he said. My advice? Skip raking the lawn and use your energy to sweep the leaves off of the driveway and out of your street instead. Also, you still need to eat your broccoli.




_________________________________________________________________________
 

Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water - www.mnwcd.org/emwrep - which includes Brown’s Creek, Carnelian Marine - St. Croix, Comfort Lake – Forest Lake, Middle St. Croix, Ramsey Washington-Metro, Rice Creek, South Washington and Valley Branch Watersheds, Cottage Grove, Dellwood, Forest Lake, Grant, Hugo, Lake Elmo, Newport, Oak Park Heights, Oakdale, Stillwater, St. Paul Park, West Lakeland, Willernie and Woodbury, Washington County and the Washington Conservation District. Contact her at 651-330-8220 x.35 or angie.hong@mnwcd.org.

To subscribe to other blogs written by Angie Hong, visit this link: East Metro Water.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Crossing the Finish Line - Completing School Rain Gardens

Article and Photos by Sage Passi

A marathon rain garden planting at Maplewood Middle School with seventh and eighth graders




 
It's early fall and we’re just about finished with our big projects at three schools in the
watershed district at Maplewood Middle School, Weaver Elementary and Harmony Learning Center. The rain garden basins are dug, classes have been involved in the planting in the last couple of weeks, the plants are in the ground doing their job and the hard physical work is almost done. Our contractor will be completing the final plantings at Maplewood Middle School in the next week or so and it will be time to celebrate!

It’s been over a two year journey to get to this step in achieving our Clean Water goal of installing large scale BMPs at schools. Along the way, we’ve had to climb a lot of hurdles. Seeing the rain gardens completed at these three schools makes it all the more gratifying to have put in such a sustained effort. Next fall we will be completing three more gardens at Central Park Elementary, Roseville Area Middle School and Woodbury Elementary School. With all the lessons learned in this round, I have confidence that we can successfully complete our commitment to engage our targeted schools in achieving reductions in stormwater runoff from their large impervious surfaces.
 


One of three Maplewood Middle School rain gardens recently planted by students
Photo credit: Konnie Her

A number of years back, I wasn’t really sure it would be possible to accomplish something like this - breaking through the bureaucracy of school districts. I was very wrong. Sometimes it can be very gratifying to prove yourself wrong!

Involving the right people who have your back is essential. I couldn’t have done it without supportive engineers, a dedicated landscape architect, an encouraging watershed project manager, school district enthusiasm and some on-board teachers to back me up. 





Providing the scaffolding for this initiative was the Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Clean Water Legacy Fund and our own Board of Managers who gave the green light to help fund the projects.


Barr Engineering and school district
staff discuss plans in the south rain garden.



Along the way, people gradually emerged who lent their support – from the District 622 Operations/Health & Safety Supervisor, Mike Boland, who advocated for the project to Ken Russ, the building engineer at Maplewood Middle School, who attended meetings with our technical staff and contractors and came out to provide tools and a hose, checked on our progress regularly and thanked us for our efforts when we were done.

As more people came on board, I began to have increasing confidence that, at the right moment, each of our partners would step up to the plate and help the projects come together. 

Waiting in the wings to play supporting roles were our faithful partners, Maplewood Nature Center, Ramsey County Master Gardeners and Ramsey Conservation District who provided staff and volunteers for the planting event.  




On the day of their planting, the Master Gardeners were there to back the classes up, but it was the kids who were the real stars.

Merlin Schlichting, Ramsey County Master Gardener, offers planting support for Weaver students.

 

“I want to be a Master Gardener,” announced one of the kids as she intently planted her gallon-sized plant in the ground at Weaver Elementary School.
 

Maplewood Middle School students beam after planting a new cultivar of goldenrod.
This species, little lemon, is being researched by the U of MN for its pollinator capacities.

Photo credit: Konnie Her


Digging on the berms took extra strength!

 








There were some tough areas to dig into, especially along the berm of the rain garden, but the students gave it everything they had. It took both teamwork and determination to get the job done.















An important task when planting potted plants is what we refer to as ‘teasing” or loosening the roots which helps the plants become less rootbound before they go in the ground. 



A Master Gardener heard a student proclaim, “I’m tenderizing the roots!”


“Teasing” the roots helps a plant recover from being rootbound, making it easier for its roots to grow into the ground.





 

Lessons Learned about Large Scale Plantings

Having experienced adult support was critical to the success of the project.


Ann Hutchinson, Lead Naturalist, and her
staff  at Maplewood Nature Center provided
expertise  and equipment for the mega two-
day planting at Maplewood Middle School.

 
I’ve had some really good teachers when it comes to learning how to manage a planting project of this scale.

Simba, our Natural Resources Technician, has been an excellent role model through the years with all our different watershed restoration projects.

Maplewood Nature Center’s Lead Naturalist Ann Hutchinson taught me how to ask a lot of good questions when visualizing how to implement a project of this size. I drew on her and her staff’s expertise when planning for and implementing this mammoth operation. 

Thank you Maplewood Nature Center for master-minding how to manage the watering of large scale projects!








Scaling Back - Making Realistic Plans

About midway through the summer, after meeting with Maplewood Nature Center staff onsite, I stood back and reassessed my initial plan to plant all three gardens at Maplewood Middle School with students. The scale of their south rain gardens in back was enormous. As I started really paying close attention to all the details and the logistics, I went back to our planning team and the contractors and came to the decision to limit our volunteer planting to the front garden.


I wanted everyone to have a quality experience and be realistic about what we could manage. When I added up the factors of weather, equipment needs, staffing and short turn-around times for each class, I knew that it was the right decision to focus on a two-day planting. In the end, eight classes at this school had the opportunity to do something hands-on to help prevent pollution downstream!


Joey Handtmann (center), watershed district permit program intern, provides directions.

Defining clear areas for students to plant, distributing students around the planting areas and cutting down the planting time to two days made this project doable!

At Weaver, the size of the garden was much more manageable. But I had a different set of challenges: even more limited time, short shifts of fifth grade students (six rotations of 20 minutes per each half class) and only a small space to accommodate a lot of students. 


Planting in 20 minute shifts - That's efficiency!


116 gallon pots were planted by
Weaver fifth graders!




But after completing Maplewood Middle School, I knew what to expect and we were able to pull off our planting at Weaver in two hours! It was intensive, but the kids loved it and came away proud of their accomplishments. 


















Harmony Learning Center rain garden

Checking out the fragrant giant hyssop















Investigating the inlet that brings water
from the parking lot to the rain garden.






At Harmony, we decided to involve both middle and high school students in the planting, as well as some of the adult ESL students who attend classes on the site.


It was a good opportunity to expand our message of stormwater stewardship to an adult audience.


Ramsey County Master Gardener, Kris Baird, assists
a Harmony High School student in planting.
 
Adult ESL students at Harmony are experienced gardeners who work in the
school's community garden They also added their touch to the rain garden.
 
 
 
Teachers Take the Lead in Teaching Stormwater Engineering
 
Two summers ago, just as we were beginning our site assessment process, I was contacted by a St. Paul Public Schools science coach, Molly Leifeld. She was working on a National Science Foundation-funded project, EngrTEAMS, which is run through the U of MN's STEM Center. STEM stands for Science Technology, Engineering and Math.

EngrTEAMS is an engineering, design-based approach to teacher professional development that helps teachers design curricular units for science topic areas within the Minnesota State Academic Science Standards. Molly asked if I could offer a hands-on experience for a group of ten 4th-8th grade teachers from three school districts who would be working on developing their own integrated curriculum units.
 


Maplewood Earth Science Teacher Julie Cazett with
RWMWD's Eric Korte and Wyatt Behrends at Maplewood Mall


The Maplewood Mall retrofit project had recently been completed. It was a great place to demonstrate these interdisciplinary concepts. I invited Barr’s engineer, Erin Anderson Wenz and our water quality monitoring coordinator, Eric Korte to meet us out at the mall to walk the teachers through the project and explore the water quality monitoring elements on the site. Two teachers on the EngrTeam, Julie Cazett and Sara Flanagan would eventually emerge as the champions for the cause at Maplewood Middle School, one of the schools we were considering for our Clean Water projects.

The mall tour sparked their interest in examining their own site for potential locations for rain gardens and other BMPs. When I later announced to them that their schoolyard had emerged as one of the top six target sites for BMPs from our assessment process, they were absolutely delighted! In the winter I was excited to discover how intensive a unit on stormwater engineering they were teaching their eighth grade earth science classes.


Over the next year I expanded our connections with other teachers at the school and developed a relationship with the seventh grade science teachers, Mary Dvorak and Sarah Hiniker, thanks to connections made by Master Naturalist Cathy Troendle who organized field days for seventh graders at nearby Southwood Nature Preserve. Participating in the field day helped me to cement a partnership when it came time to ask them to be involved in the rain garden project.

Mary Dvorak, 7th grade science teacher, assists with planting at Maplewood Middle School.

At Weaver, we had been working with classes for many years so it was a natural extension of our connection and Maplewood Nature Center’s ongoing collaboration with them to engage them in the rain garden project. We created lessons for the fourth graders so that when they moved up to fifth grade in the fall of this year, they would have some background and ownership of the rain garden project.

Randee Edmundson, a Citizen Advisory Commission member and an educator who has worked on watershed issues for years, had strong connections to Harmony Learning Center. She has taught there in multiple programs and helped us provide lessons for students in multiple classes.

Thank you to everyone who has made this Clean Water initiative a success!


The completed Weaver rain garden