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Freedom Intermediate students solve erosion problem with school “rain garden”

Students at Freedom Intermediate School saw a water run-off problem at their school and have identified an environmentally friendly solution. Long known as an environmental leader, Freedom Intermediate is not afraid to take on environmental challenges and the water run-off that was damaging their grounds and landscaping seemed like a good place to make a difference. The school’s environmental club (Green Team) sponsor, Barbara Orr, along with 6th grade science teacher Angie Tisdale, challenged a group of honors students to find a solution to filter the excess run-off pollution that was wreaking havoc on the school grounds.  

As a part of their research for the Siemens We Can Change the World Science Competition, sixth-grade students Lanie Plunkett, Ava Leathers, Jose Mata, and Andrew Widman (group name: “The Rain Guardians”) discovered that a “rain garden” would capture clean rainwater from the roof, driveway and sidewalks and divert it into a garden where it can slowly soak into the ground. This garden has the extra benefit of filtering contaminants and keeping quantities of clean water from going down the sewer system. 

Fittingly, during the National Groundwater Awareness Week (March 10-16, 2013), the students and the Freedom Intermediate Green Team constructed the school rain garden, along with the help of parents and faculty volunteers. Once well established, the garden will mimic the natural absorption and pollutant removal activities of a forest or a meadow. The rain garden will be able to absorb runoff more efficiently, sometimes by as much as 30% - 40%, than a standard lawn. Capturing rainwater in a rain garden, holding the water for a short time and then slowly releasing it into the soil can reduce the rush of a large storm – quickly, neatly and naturally. “The rain garden has already proved to be effective after the first rainfall this past week, slowing the rate of water and erosion and run-off pollution,” Orr said.

The project will not only serve as natural filtration system for the run-off from the school, but also provided a hands-on teaching and learning opportunity for current and future students, as well as the community of Franklin. Orr hopes the school’s example will catch on in the community. “Everyone can be a part of the solution to erosion and pollution from run-off by building their own personal rain garden, which, in turn, will make the Harpeth River cleaner and healthier,” she said.

The rain garden project was funded with money the school received earlier this year from Tennessee’s first Sustainability Steward Award, a component of the Good Sports Always Recycle program sponsored by Eastman Chemical Company, Food City, Waste Connections of TN, Inc., and the University of Tennessee.   
 
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  • The FSSD places a deliberate focus on personalized instruction tailored to meet each student's individual needs. 
  • The district's achievement on the 2014 State Report Card places it among the top 5 of all public school systems in Tennessee. Out of 137 public school systems, in 2014, the FSSD ranked 2nd in social studies, 3rd in reading, 4th in science and 5th in math.

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