Friday, October 12, 2012


Students, nonprofits and government agencies work together to bring outdoor classroom to local school

Bethel Elementary School, located in western Watauga County, is now home to new rain garden, a project made possible through partnership with several local agencies. The 850-square-foot rain garden, situated in front of the school, not only collects rainwater runoff from the school’s rooftop, but also will serve as an outdoor classroom with a variety of learning opportunities for students. Native plants, water quality, and wildlife habitat are among the topics that can be taught through the functioning rain garden.

Students from the Bethel Elementary Science Club were involved with the rain garden from start to finish; students in last year’s group learned about rain gardens and helped size and plan for the garden in front of their school.  Their work paid off this fall as the rain garden was installed a few weeks ago.  Sixth through 8th graders got to help plant and learn about the functions that rain gardens provide.  

The rain garden was funded by a grant from NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently received by the Watauga River Partners to enhance Beaverdam Creek and all of its tributaries. Through the Beaverdam Creek Restoration Project, landowners in the Bethel area are eligible to receive funding to prevent land loss due to erosion, improve drinking water and fish habitats, and implement best management practices on their properties.

Bethel Science Club is part of the Climate Action Network through Direct Observations and Outreach (CAN-DOO), a NASA-funded program with the mission of increasing climate awareness and promoting science literacy through climate science. Outreach efforts target learners of all ages including K-12 public and home-schooled students in North Carolina. “Science Clubs take place bi-weekly at two Watauga County elementary schools. Science Clubs are open (free of charge) to 2nd to 8th grade students and focus on the science of our climate and environment through hands-on activities,” Ginger Kelly, CAN-DOO coordinator, said.

This project has been a great example of a local non-profit organization utilizing federal funding to benefit the entire Bethel community, Wendy Patoprsty, Watauga Cooperative Extension science club partner, said. “The students have literally dug right in to learning about climate and the environment and have had a blast doing so,” she said.

CANN-DOO science club will continue throughout the 2012 school year, and the Watauga River Partners will continue working with interested landowners for the next 15 months. Watauga River Partners is working with Watauga Cooperative Extension, and Watauga Soil and Water Conservation to install projects in the Beaverdam community.  

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