Western Pennsylvania ConservancyWater, Land, Life

November 2015

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Students from Steel Valley School District Get Outdoor Science Lesson and Plant Trees at Barrett Elementary
Students at the Barret at a planting

New tree trench will help with stormwater management near the school

“This was one of the most exciting projects that I’ve ever worked on and the first time I planted a tree,” said Allena Keller, a sophomore from Steel Valley High School who is part of the school’s Creating Value Program. The afterschool STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) program aims to help students learn how to collaborate with community members to solve problems through various community design projects.

With grants from the PNC Charitable Foundation and Allegheny County Conservation District, the school district leaders, teachers and students and Homestead Borough worked in partnership with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to help plan, design and implement a new stormwater tree trench at Barrett Elementary School.

October 21 was the planting day for six ginkgo trees for the new trench.

“We’ve been planning and waiting for this day for a long time,” said Bethany Fenyus, a SVHS teacher and one of the program coordinators. “This is the perfect project for our students in this program. They will be able to come back to this area years from now and see how they made a difference in their own community. This project has real-world value with tangible results.”

Twenty-five students – six from the Creating Value Program and 19 fourth graders from Barrett Elementary – participated in the event. Before digging holes, planting and shoveling mulch, all students were given a demonstration on how to plant trees and the importance of trees and green infrastructure in stormwater management.

The grants funded the installation of six trees in a stormwater tree trench, which is a system of aerated soil, trees, native vegetation and rocks strategically connected by an underground stormwater drainage structure. From the surface, the tree trenches look like areas of newly planted trees and vegetation. However, the trench underneath the trees will help capture, infiltrate, filter and slowly release stormwater into the drainage system below.

The high school students worked closely with the fourth graders during the planting, and also named a few of the trees. One fourth grader asked, “How about Snoopy for this one?” Another student shared his enthusiasm, “This is so much fun…I wish we could do this every day at school!”

Steel Valley School District Superintendent Edward Wehrer, who also attended the planting, said this is only the beginning of a green transformation of his district’s school grounds.

Barret students at the planting.

“We are advancing an initiative called Transforming Twelfth to engage students in designing and creating a greener environment around the Barrett Elementary School campus,” said Wehrer. “This effort is just the start of how we can get our students involved in making our schools and communities greener, healthier and more attractive places to learn and live. It has been a working partnership with the Conservancy and I look forward to working on future projects.”

After about two hours of planting, staking and watering the trees, Allena summed up the experience.

“Yeah, this is pretty cool and beautiful now,” she said. “I love giving back and helping the younger students. We all will appreciate this experience – and these new trees.”

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
800 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Phone: (412) 288-2777
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