Rain Gardens: A Lesson in Stormwater Solutions at Shaler Area High School
CLIP Grant funds rain garden at Shaler Area High School

Allegheny County Conservation District (ACCD) awarded more than $6,500 to Girty’s Run Watershed Association (GRWA) to install an educational rain garden at Shaler Area High School through the Conservation, Leadership and Innovation Program.

This grant from ACCD will provide meaningful environmental education opportunities for current and future students while capturing an estimated 1,355 gallons of stormwater in a one-inch rainfall.


Left to right: Shaler Area teachers Kate Elder and Christine Palladino, Shaler Area students Alyssa Juzwick, Olivia Jarzynka, Rebecca Schiqusne, Jamie Eichmiller, Caitlin Fedorek, GRWA Executive Director Donna Pearson and Shaler Area student Anna Sheets. Not pictured: Shaler Area student Dakota Carr
"It was a very enriching project that helped us learn about how nature works in different environments," Shaler Area High School sophomore Alyssa Juzwick said. "It's a great feeling putting our ideas into action."

This project also combines monitoring sensors for rainfall and water absorption with software provided by DECO Resources. These features will be powered by a solar panel, and an integrated phone app will monitor those sensor levels in real time.


GRWA Executive Director Donna Pearson at the site of the future rain garden on Shaler Area High School Campus.
The nearly 1,357 Shaler Area High School students will enjoy the benefits of green infrastructure, stormwater management, pollutant reduction, beautification and wildlife habitat.

"Environmental education is so important for raising awareness and encouraging lifelong care for our land and water,” GRWA Executive Director Donna Pearson said. “One of GRWA’s guiding principles is to provide education as a foundation for future watershed protection and stewardship. The educational and demonstrative nature of this rain garden will allow students to understand the benefits of green infrastructure in stormwater management as well as the value of wildlife habitat in a changing climate. The rain garden can be integrated into existing curriculum at the school, especially science, technology, biology and art classes."

titleCurrent greenhouse on Shaler Area campus
titleSolar panels to be used to power monitoring sensors.

Why Rain Gardens?
A rain garden is a depression that is designed to absorb runoff from rain events, and it is planted with beautiful flowers, grasses and shrubs. Rain gardens yield many more benefits than mowed grass. On the surface, it looks like an area of flowers and plants, but its purpose runs deep.

Beyond the immediate results of creating beauty on your property, there are two pressing issues that face all of us today and rain gardens can help.

Stormwater Runoff
In a green space, rain has the opportunity to absorb into the ground and be filtered clean. However, our landscape is now dominated by roads, parking lots, driveways and buildings. Instead of rain seeping into the ground, it rolls over paved surfaces and picks up pollutants like fuel, heavy metal dust, bacteria and litter.

Where does this dirty water go? Right to our streams and rivers, which is the source of the water we use in our homes. A rain garden helps to absorb rain water, clean it and send it on its way.

The Decline of Pollinator Species
Did you know that the quality and quantity of our food depends on pollinator species like bees, butterflies, bats and beetles? Pollinators are in decline, and a big reason is the lack of suitable habitats. By planting a rain garden with native plants and flowers, pollinators thrive so that we can secure the future of our food.