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Rain garden to get sign, benches

The Osakis Public Schools rain garden, on the southeast corner of the school property, is adjacent to a parking lot and a playground. Plans for the garden were discussed at a school board meeting. (Photo by Roberta Olson, Osakis Review)

The Osakis Public School has created a rain garden, located in the southeast corner of the school property.

To some the area may look like an unkempt weed patch. Others see it as a study in wild flowers.

The nine students in the Osakis College Environmental Science Class, taught by Emily Wolf, see the rain garden as a detriment to pollution that would eventually get into Lake Osakis. In addition, they wanted the Osakis community to understand the plan behind the garden.

Three of the class members presented their semester one study of the rain garden at the Monday, Jan. 11 regular School Board meeting. They began with an introductory video of the garden, and then presented their printed report.

Christy Helm, Gretchen Majerus and Shayla Marthaler told the board the purpose of their experiment was to show the importance of the rain garden.

They sampled and analyzed water samples from the area, testing for pH levels, precise pH, alkalinity and conductivity change over time.

Because the rain garden is adjacent to one of the school parking lots, the class predicted that the pollution levels would rise as there was more snow. The results were as predicted, with the pH level, alkalinity and conductivity levels getting worse over time.

“Fresh water is a precious resource that we value every day,” the report concluded. “We know that our fresh water is being contaminated constantly by oil, salt, fertilizer, pesticides, pet waste, transportation chemicals, sediments, and many other pollutants. The rain garden collects this water, in fact thousands of gallons of water. The surrounding trees and plants soak up the water of the rain garden to continue to grow. It makes them inert rather than harmful. Other than its cleansing purpose it is also beautiful and creates habitat for birds and insects. It can also be used to teach children and adults about nature.”

The class has worked with the Sauk River Watershed District, which has awarded them a $500 grant to be used for signs and bench seating in the rain garden.

Designs for signage at the rain garden were shown to the School Board. These include a main sign featuring a photo of a colorful flower from the rain garden, and smaller signs with plant information on them to be placed adjacent to the plants they describe. The smaller signs will be paired with lesson plans for elementary students to study the rain garden.

The class members collected seeds from the rain garden plants last fall and have enough seeds to re-seed the garden, and possibly to sell some of the seeds.