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February 17, 2015

Horizons, student group partner to teach environmental stewardship

With the help of a new grant from the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, the six-week, full-day Horizons summer enrichment program will launch a project called Rain Gardens for Youth Empowerment and Pollution Prevention. In partnership with the student-led, environmental-action awareness group Grassroots, the new initiative will use a newly installed rain garden to help teach 130 elementary and middle school students about water pollution issues in the environment.

Undergraduates from Grassroots will work together with Campus Planning, Design, and Construction Management this spring to plan, design, build, and install a rain garden near the Lyman Outdoor Tennis Courts, a 1,000 square-foot area on Wilson Boulevard, near Public Safety. Horizons students will plant and maintain the rain garden this summer while learning about protecting the environment through water conservation and various pollution prevention efforts.

A rain garden is low planted area that collects runoff from hard surfaces and allows the water to filter into the ground. The plants will help capture and control rainwater runoff and the plant roots help to remove pollutants before they reach the Genesee River and storm drain systems that empty into Lake Ontario. It will also help prevent future water damage to the tennis courts.

According to Lynn Gatto, director of Horizons at Warner who also directs the elementary education program at Warner, students will develop an understanding of the garden’s contribution to the environment and sustainability issues.

“Our goal is to make students more environmentally conscious,” says Gatto, “and to show them that they can play a significant part in preserving the earth. We hope that they will learn to become advocates and stewards of the environment.”

In addition to serving as a site for Horizons lessons, the garden will also become a social gathering place for others on campus. A QR code for mobile devices will help visitors learn more about the garden project through a featured project video, created by Horizons and Grassroots, highlighting their efforts and promoting citizen action. The rain garden curriculum, created by lead teachers of Horizons as part of the overall project, will also be disseminated to local elementary schools so that they can develop and maintain their own rain gardens using the established curriculum.

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