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Students Design Rain Garden to Address Drainage Issue on Campus

A hydrology classroom project is giving Otterbein University students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, while simultaneously solving a drainage issue on campus. A rain garden is being constructed between Battelle Fine Arts Center and the parking lot behind Roush Hall.

According to Associate Professor Kevin Svitana, the purpose of a rain garden is to promote infiltration of rainwater instead of having the water run into a storm sewer.

"We thought this project would make a great opportunity for students to actually develop the design criteria, make the field measurements necessary to prepare the design then put the design on paper, so Otterbein service personnel would be able to construct the rain garden," he said. "This provided the students with an excellent hands-on experience to see how you develop and execute a project."

Svitana's hydrology class started the project last fall and was unable to finish the project before the semester ended. During spring semester, seven students in the course decided to work toward completing the project as part of an independent study.

"The rain garden gave us a way to apply the concepts we have been learning about in our classes to something in the real world," said senior, environmental science and biology major, Marie Paquette. "This gives us experience regarding what changes and what is most important to real projects instead of just assignments in the classroom."

Svitana said the students have worked closely with Otterbein's service department to construct the rain garden. The steps that brought the project to fruition included modeling the drainage area, calculating volume estimates, developing excavation and soil grading plans, and an assessment of the appropriate seeds to use in order to promote a prairie grass vegetative cover.

Senior Chelsea Menke, an environmental science major, said her role was to identify the types of plants that would go in the rain garden. "A plant for a rain garden must be able to withstand drought, as well as standing water for long periods of time," she said. "I had to work with the others to know how deep the garden was going to be and light versus shade factors."

"The biggest benefit, besides the immediate environmental help it will provide for the campus, is that it will stand as a great example for years to come of exactly what students are capable of learning and doing with the amazing professors at Otterbein," said senior, sustainability studies major, Zeb Martin. 

Senior, environmental science major, Loren Birdsall said seeing the project come to life is very rewarding. "Every time I walk past the rain garden with my friends, I always stop and say, 'look guys, I helped design that,'" she said. "I never thought I would be designing anything like this at Otterbein. Now I have, and that's very cool."

The students hope to finish the project in time for an Earth Day event on April 22, 2014.