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PLCC students dig new rain garden project

9/27/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Joyce Rainey Long

From left, seniors Nik Olce and Dillon Siers dig in an area near where a rain garden will be installed at Portage Lakes Career Center as Ryan McMichael, who teaches the plant, landscape and turf management students, directs their progress.
Photos: Joyce Rainey Long
GREEN — A new project at Portage Lakes Career Center (PLCC) is rooted in helping the environment as five seniors create a rain garden at the school.

Jeremiah Huthmaker, a senior at Portage Lakes Career Center, works a mini tiller in an area near where a rain garden will be installed.
Rain gardens are areas where plants are specifically designed to absorb rainwater, said Ryan McMichael, who teaches the plant, landscape and turf management students. The 10-by-80-foot rain garden, to be located near PLCC’s greenhouses, will capture storm water from the roof and parking lot.

The rain garden will be built using a $2,000 grant from the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization, and students also will be working with the Summit Soil and Water Conservation District and the city of Green on the project. PLCC received one of 74 FFA grants that were given throughout the nation, according to McMichael.

McMichael said students will design the project and install the garden in October, and they also will renovate another rain garden, located near the new science wing, that was created about three years ago.

“The plants will be filled up with more than rainwater,” said McMichael, who is in his second year of teaching at PLCC. “They’ll absorb toxins, oil leaking from cars, dirt and debris.

“This will be an intense project, and the students will choose perennials that are hardy plants — they will have to be able to take up water and withstand drought,” he added.

No irrigation system will be built for the rain garden, he said.

“The rain garden concept is an extension of PLCC’s renewed focus on sustainability and environmental sensitivity,” said PLCC Superintendent Benjamin Moore.

In the past, rain gardens have been focused on function and not on attractiveness, McMichael said.

“We are going to make the rain garden visually appealing,” he said. “It will be one you’d want in your yard.”

Joan Moore, one of five seniors working on the project, said she is excited.

“It’s going to be pretty awesome,” she said. “You know you’ve made it, and the rain garden is going to be there for a while.”

The students will be doing research to select the plants that will be used in their garden, she added.

“We’re looking at plants that suck up pollution and harsh emissions,” said senior Logan Vincent. “The plants actually have nice little flowers on them, and we’ll pick a combination of colors that go together.”

He said when the rain garden is completed, it will be “a nice feeling knowing that we did this.”

The seniors will get some assistance from five juniors who also are in the program.

After the plants are chosen, the students will have to prepare the landscaping beds, said Dillon Siers, another senior in the program. The garden then will be surrounded by bricks, he added.

In the spring, the students will present a community workshop that will include a DVD available that documents how they created the rain garden, said McMichael. The visual design and imaging students at the school will make the DVD.

“The students will learn the importance of community and the environmental impact,” said McMichael. “I hope this project will help students become more involved in community service as they progress in life.”

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