Students planting rain garden
Knox College students in the course ‘Examining the Anthropocene’ planting a rain garden to control water runoff. (Photo: Courtesy of Knox College / Peter Bailley)

Last spring, students at Knox College in Illinois traded their notebooks for shovels and planted a rain garden on campus. The garden is not just a bunch of pretty plants. It’s designed to reduce stress on the campus drainage system during heavy rain.

“The whole goal behind the rain gardens is … slow it, spread it, and sink it,” says associate professor William Hope. “And that is to take the movement of the water and slow it down such that it loses energy and rather spreads out and sinks into the earth.”

He says the project’s engineered so that rain comes from the roof of a nearby building, through downspouts, and into a bed of gravel. Then it flows into the garden. The plants’ roots hold the soil in place and help absorb the water.

This is the second rain garden that Hope has helped his students design and build. And he says they’ve walked away each time more observant and motivated to design solutions for their communities.

“Several students across the years have commented that this has given them a physical connection to campus in ways that they felt proud of,” he says, “that they would come back and share their stories, importantly, and their experiences of doing this project with friends and family.”

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Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Youth