Wauwatosa West High School’s Water Action Project – Planting native plants to control runoff
In April 2009 Mr. Lund’s Advanced Earth Science students embarked on a project to reduce the amount of runoff coming from their school yard. Left unchecked, this water was destined to end up in the Menomonee River. To slow or stop the water flow from the yard students decided to create a rain garden using native prairie plants. These plants have long, extensive root systems that are capable of absorbing a lot of rain water. Tosa West H. S. students started by burning off the non-native vegetation to prepare the area for planting. Then they researched the types of flowers they should plant. They determined the number and variety of native flowers needed by studying the runoff volumes as they relate to river water flow rates.
Later in the spring the elementary and middle school students in the district installed the Wisconsin native plants that were purchased with funds from various sources. The donors included: the Testing the Waters program funded by MMSD, the UW Madison - Arboretum, Wild Ones, and many others.
By May 1st it was obvious that the burn worked well. Prairie smoke, rattlesnake master, Jacob's ladders and much more were popping through the soil! (see pictures)
To determine how much runoff was prevented by the natural area Mr. Lund’s students went outside and took measurements. One of the plants they put in was spiderwort (see photo- it’s not open yet but still pretty interesting). Spiderworts bloom in spring and summer, have a cluster of up to 10 violet blue flowers with 3 petals and yellow stamens. Their leaves are long and grass-like.
On June 5th, 2009 new plants were set down and Leopold benches were installed. Attached are two photos of those plantings. As the prairie planting grew so did the level of interest in it. Elementary and middle schoolers planted all of the plants. “The prairie is getting bigger each year and I foresee an increased level of interest as its size increases and we install Aldo Leopold benches. When we finally get a sign out there for our prairie, we plan on displaying the various places that helped us including MMSD, Riveredge, UW Madison-Aboretum, Wild Ones, and many others. (P.S.The burn worked very well! Right now the prairie smoke, rattlesnake master, Jacob’s ladders and much more are popping through the soil! Hot dog!!)” Bill Lund, Science Teacher, Wauwatosa West High School
June, 2010 to spring 2011 – “Planting of native Wisconsin wildflowers & plants will continue in spring 2011 on a sloping lot that leads to a parking lot. Runoff retention will be improved with continued planting. The advantages of natural systems, such as prairies, for runoff control and retention will be discussed” Bill Lund