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RainScapes for Schools

The RainScapes for Schools program is a voluntary program where educational projects like rain gardens, conservations landscapes, and canopy trees can be implemented on Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) property with help from volunteers and support from the RainScapes for Schools program. These projects both reduce stormwater pollution and provide educational opportunities for students by strengthening their connection to nature during their school day. 

Image of a RainScapes schools program.

The RainScapes for Schools program provides consultation and materials for these curriculum based outdoor classroom projects. All MCPS schools are eligible to apply for the RainScapes for Schools program provided they agree to provide volunteer labor for the installation and maintenance of the projects.

In addition to the RainScapes for Schools program MCPS high schools can apply for the RainScapes Growing Program. This program utilizes high school greenhouses for the production of plants to be used in the RainScapes for Schools projects. This program aligns with the emerging MCPS high school horticulture curriculum. 

 

Opportunities Available:

  • RainScapes for Schools (All grade levels (K-12) at Montgomery County Public Schools eligible)

  • RainScapes for High School Growing Program (For horticulture and AP environmental science classes)

Private schools in Montgomery County interested in installing RainScapes projects and receiving a rebate should apply through our RainScapes Rewards Rebate Program for commercial and institutional properties category.

 

State and Local Curricular Requirements

RainScapes for Schools will provide materials and funds to projects which are linked to K-12 curricular goals and which will improve stormwater runoff conditions on school property. The program supports the Maryland State Department of Natural Resources "Partnership for Children" recommendations on Environmental Literacy Goals by funding projects which provide environmental features on school properties and which can be used to teach about stormwater, water quality, native plants, wildlife habitat pollination, Bay health and other components of environmental literacy at each of the K-12 levels.

Image of Students Working on Rainscapes Projects

The MDSE standards, which are available on their website, cover a range of environmental concerns. The standards are interactive and focus on the need for students to develop critical thinking skills. The seven standards for environmental literacy are detailed on the MDSE web site.

Montgomery County Public Schools also has a number of curricular standards in their K-12 framework which will be supported by RainScapes projects. These include, but are not limited to, the science curriculum for 2nd, 4th and 6th grades and the AP Environmental Science and Environmental Horticulture courses.

Importantly, these unique landscaping enhancements provide teachers with a renewable resource for hands on education at their schools for the subjects of environmental stewardship, habitat enhancement, and conservation. Other subjects such as art, English writing assignments, social studies and biology are also able to be taught in a holistic manner using the environment as an integrated context for learning for curricular goals using the projects built with RainScapes funding.

 

Alignment with the Montgomery County Public Schools' Strategic Plan

RainScapes for Schools projects provide an opportunity for schools to strengthen community and family relationships for their student populations. Support for the project from year to year will typically be shared among a parent or community group and a teacher or group of teachers at a school.

Image of Rainscapes at School

Hands-on, inquiry based learning opportunities are provided by the experience of planting, observing, maintaining and learning from gardens and habitat based site projects. Such inquiry based learning has compelling support in the data as being a source of boosting student achievement, improving behavior and reducing truancy. The benefits ascribed to garden and habitat based on-site education are consistent with the 2008 Montgomery County Public Schools Strategic Plan Academic Priority Goal: Strengthen family-school relationships and continue to expand civic, business, and community partnerships that support improved student achievement.

MDSE standards: RainScapes for Schools supports the Maryland State Department of Education's Environmental Literacy Goals by funding projects which provide environmental features on school properties and which can be used to teach about stormwater, Bay health and environmental literacy at each of the K-12 levels. The MDSE standards cover a range of environmental concerns. The standards are interactive and focus on the need for students to develop critical thinking skills.

 

Additional Information

Low Impact Development of Schools - A resource for schools to use for LID and sustainable stormwater practices as part of an EPA Office of Water Assistance Agreement.

The MDSE web site covers a range of environmental concerns. The standards are interactive and focus on the need for students to develop critical thinking skills. The eight standards for environmental literacy are detailed on the MDSE web site. The final standard, Sustainability, forms the other major support to the framework. Natural processes are studied through the standards relating to the life and Earth/Space sciences. Human systems are investigated through differing geographic, cultural, societal, economic and political views. The interaction of these natural and human systems constitutes the majority of the study, with the concept of sustainability as the equilibrium point-the touchstone of positive human and natural interactions.

 

 

What Projects are Eligible?

Three types of natural drainage projects on school campuses will be funded through the RainScapes for Schools program:

Rain Gardens

Image of a RainScapes school.

A rain garden is a garden that is designed to absorb stormwater slowly after a rainfall.  It looks like a shallow depression in the ground but otherwise can blend into other planting areas visually. Learn more about rain gardens.

Students can be taught lessons about the water cycle, stormwater control, and watershed health through observations and hands on learning opportunities with the rain garden. Rain gardens are also gardens which may be used for habitat lessons and many other curricular applications which are outside of the science content area.

 

 

 

Conservation Landscapes 

Conservation landscapes support the reestablishment of the native flora of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, reduce runoff and enhance local landscape aesthetics. Projects provide learning opportunities for students. The approach entails removing turf areas (the square foot area is specified in the Conservation Landscaping application) and replanting with habitat-supporting species. 75 percent of the plants selected should be native to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The RainScapes for Schools program will provide a list of plants suitable for conservation landscapes as well as a list of other suitable resources. Learn more about conservation landscaping.Image of conservation landscapes.

Students can be taught about the importance of the interrelationship between the people who live in watersheds, how watershed health is supported through environmental stewardship, and how watershed health is reflected in landscapes.

Lessons pertaining to plant community composition, impacts of stormwater runoff, and the change in runoff depending on land cover are applicable to several disciplines. Many observational opportunities exist for curricular ties across the disciplines—from science to fine arts. Each of the native forest types in Montgomery County evolved with a community of plants specific to the environmental conditions of the county. These plant communities have similar growing requirements within themselves, leading to lower maintenance solutions for landscapes when you replant using a plant community conservation landscaping model.                                     

 

Urban Tree Canopy 

Montgomery County watersheds were originally all tree covered. As our county has changed from rural to urban, many watersheds in the county have experienced significant loss of tree cover. Replacing trees reestablishes the urban tree canopy. Learn more about planting and caring for trees.Image of an urban tree canopy.

All tree placement on the property for RainScapes for Schools projects should be done to provide shading of impervious surfaces such as sidewalks, parking lots, play structures, patio spaces, or heating/cooling units. The only trees included are canopy trees native  to Montgomery County. Ornamental and understory trees such as dogwoods are too small to qualify for this type of project but may be part of a conservation landscape project.

Students can measure temperature differences to verify the benefits of shade and learn about trees, healthy forest cover and other watershed health indicators. Stormwater reduction from trees and the cooling effects of trees on water temperatures can be researched, as well as how trees provide a source of inspiration for assignments in several areas of study, such as literature.

 

                                         

Requirements and Funding

Each MCPS school is required to do a comprehensive site evaluation prior to selecting their project using a checklist included in the Application Form (PDF, 899KB). When selecting a project type, consider how it would help to meet educational goals, and also consider resources needed for first-time installation and on-going maintenance. Projects should support educational efforts and not be part of meeting a facilities requirement for on-site stormwater management. 

Each project is expected to include a planting design and maintenance plan and must receive approval from the appropriate facilities management office prior to installation. A facilities form must be submitted as part of the application package.

A School Agreement signed by the school principal must be submitted to DEP (see sample in Section 7 of the RainScapes for Schools Support Document (PDF, 378KB). This signed Letter of Agreement between the school principal and DEP must be submitted to verify that this is a project supported by the principal, that the on-site building services personnel will be informed about this project, and that there is a school-based commitment to maintaining the project. If you have questions or concerns regarding this process please contact us at Rainscapes.Application@montgomerycountymd.gov.

 

List of Project Requirements

  • A comprehensive site assessment to identify site conditions and determine the best site for a project 

  • Stated curriculum objectives to be met by the RainScapes Project 

  • Approval of the appropriate facilities management office as indicated on the MCPS Facilities management form. Download the approval form. (PDF, 75KB)

  • Support of the school principal shown by signatures on the first page of the application

  • A stated plan for implementation 

  • A planting plan 

  • A maintenance plan 

  • All requirements outlined in the application (including the design guidelines and criteria for project eligibility) must be met 

  • RainScapes or other approved sign must be installed at each project (A RainScapes educational sign for each project will be provided by Department of Environmental Protection.) 

 

Funding

Each Montgomery County public school is eligible for a funding maximum of $5,000 per property for the sum of all projects. The three eligible project types include rain gardens, conservation landscaping and urban tree canopy.  RainScapes will provide materials up to the maximum value; we do not provide funds to be expended. All decisions on funding are final and are at the sole discretion of the Department of Environmental Protection.

 

How to Apply

If you are interested in installing a rain garden, conservation landscape or tree planting project through RainScapes for Schools, please review the individual project requirements.  When you’re ready to apply contact the RainScapes program at Rainscapes@montgomerycountymd.gov for application information. Applications can be submitted via email. 

 

Application Deadlines

Applicants are encouraged to apply early as funds are limited by fiscal year (July 1 through June 30) and there are spring and fall deadlines to allow for project review by both MCPS and DEP. 

  • Applications for spring projects are due by Dec 15th to Rainscapes 

  • Applications for fall projects are due by March 15th to Rainscapes 

Note: if you already have project approval from MCPS, these deadlines could be flexible assuming that the project meets our requirements.

Follow the three steps listed below. A more detailed set of information is provided in the RainScapes for Schools Support Document (PDF, 378KB)

 

STEP ONE – Comprehensive Site Evaluation and Application Preparation

  1. Read the materials and obtain a base map from the school system GIS office or Google Earth. If you are unable to get mapping resources in this manner, contact RainScapes.

  2. Conduct a comprehensive site assessment as detailed in the RainScapes for Schools support documents (Section 1). If you need assistance, contact the DEP RainScapes office.

  3. Select a project type and fill out the appropriate application. Include your estimated budget with the application.

  4. Compile all necessary documentation outlined in the application including:

    1. A "before" photo of the proposed project area (up to six COMPRESSED photos may be submitted to Rainscapes@montgomerycountymd.gov)

    2. A plan with a simple graphic of the project shown on the property.

    3. An itemized budget covering all project costs requested to be covered by DEP

    4. A proposed maintenance schedule (Sample template in support documents (Section 3)

  5. Have the application signed by all appropriate parties.

  6. E-mail the application, photos, and required documentation to Rainscapes@montgomerycountymd.gov

  7. Submit your Facilities Form for Projects at the same time you submit your RainScapes Project form to expedite project processing.

  8. After you receive application approval from the Department of Environmental Protection (but before beginning the project) a preliminary site inspection and consultation will be scheduled. (Allow three weeks for processing).

 

STEP TWO – Before you begin installing the Project

When your application has been approved by DEP:

  1. You will be contacted by the Department of Environmental Protection and the preliminary site inspection will be scheduled.

  2. For all RainScapes for Schools projects, you must contact MISS UTILITY and have the project area marked prior to site inspection. Note: ask your building services manager to help you with getting utilities marked on school property.

  3. Don’t begin your project without DEP verification of suitability and approval from the MCPS Div of Construction Facilities Office.

  4. Materials itemized in your budget will be provided by DEP, up to the maximum allowable value. If costs will exceed the funding allowed, the school will need to indicate to RainScapes the source of funding for all materials not covered by the funding limit.

  5. A RainScapes sign will be provided to the school for installation by the school.

 

STEP THREE – After You Finish the Project

  1. Call or email the Department of Environmental Protection RainScapes for Schools program to schedule a final inspection. Inspections will generally be scheduled within 10 business days. 

  2. At the final inspection, correct installation of the project will be verified, and the project area will be photographed.

 

RainScapes for High Schools: Growing Programs

Image of a RainScapes High School Growing Program

 

The RainScapes for Schools Growing Program is a voluntary program where high school horticulture and environmental science classes are supplied with plants, pots, soil, and guidance for the educational propagation of native plants in their greenhouses.

 

Who is Eligible?

Any high school horticulture and AP environmental studies programs in Montgomery County public schools with greenhouse access are eligible for this program.

 

Reporting Requirements

While there is no charge to the school for the plants or growing media, a one page assessment survey of the project and 25 percent of the plants provided are to be provided back to RainScapes for spring planting projects by mid-spring.

The balance of plants produced is for the classes to use on community-based projects or as part of the entrepreneurial component of green job education in the horticulture curriculum. 

 

How to Apply?

Participation is by invitation based on previous participation or by a request from a teacher by June 30th. 

Email Rainscapes@montgomerycountymd.gov for program invitation.

 

Application Deadline

Plug plant materials will be provided to MCPS high school horticulture classes that submit an application to DEP RainScapes by June 30th. Details on available plants are provided in August. Plugs are available for pickup at the beginning of the 2nd semester.

All pickups are at Sherwood High School Greenhouse (pick up date to be provided after application is processed and approved). Soil mix and pots will be provided after the orders are placed in the fall and should be picked up from Sherwood HiS Greenhouse within 2 weeks of notification. Plugs will be delivered at the beginning of the Spring Semester to Sherwood HS Greenhouse and will need to be picked up at that time. Teachers are responsible for collecting their materials and coordinating with Sherwood HS for pickups; details and contact information will be provided at the time of project approval. The RainScapes staff will pick up plants from the schools in the spring which is usually the first week in May.