Green Mountain Rain Barrel Watering Wonders at Cunningham Elementary

Editor’s Note: At the 2014 SXSW Eco conference, Green Mountain Energy used a 500-gallon interactive rain barrel as a message board to call attention to the issue of water scarcity.  After the conference, we donated the rain barrel to an elementary school in Austin, Texas, to help water the school’s learning garden and to be incorporated into the students’ curriculum. Below is a guest blog from an instructor at the school.

Student: What is that thing, Ms. Maples?

Me: That’s a rain barrel. What do you think we are going to do with it?

Student: (Squinting at barrel…thinking.)  I guess catch rain.

Me: That’s right. How much rain do you think we can catch?

Student: (Shrugs.)

Me:  Well, we can catch 500 gallons. That’s like 500 milk jugs full of water, or filling up a watering can 500 times.

Student: (Wide eyed) That’s a lot.

Me: Yep. It sure is, and each time is rains it can be refilled. Pretty cool, huh?

Student:  Yes, it is!

This is just one of the many conversations I’ve had with students since Green Mountain Energy donated a 500 gallon rain barrel to PEAS (Partners for Education, Agriculture, & Sustainability) Community Farm at Cunningham Elementary.  Just the presence of the barrel gets the students’ curiosity going and the questions flowing (like water from the faucet of the barrel!).

Now that it is hooked up to catch the water off one of our portable buildings and fill our watering cans, there is even more to talk about.  We’ve used it as a discussion starter to discover where the rest of the water on the property comes from, and how helpful it will be to have an additional source of water for our farm during the recent drought when the restrictions don’t allow us to use the city water as much as we need.  We’ve even talked about how catching the water and using it on site saves energy that would otherwise be used to pump the same amount of water from the lake!

In the few short months we’ve had the barrel, we have learned a lot, and this is just the beginning of many years of discovery.

Thank you, Green Mountain Energy, for your generosity and for helping us bring more sustainable practices to our campus!

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