Turning High School Hallways into Water-Wise Gardens

By October 26, 2018Blog

Students from Bolsa Grande High School proudly unveiled their campus’ new water-wise makeover, featuring colorful California native plants that conserve water and reduce runoff pollution.

On October 22, 2018, the student wilderness adventure club led an interactive tour and presented their own research to local media, fellow students, school board members – and even the city mayor.

We’re here to fill you in on how this outdoor campus transformation protects our environment and improves student learning.

How We’re Making Garden Grove High Schools Blossom

DROPS (Drought Response Outreach Program for Schools) is a grant program introduced by the State Water Resources Control Board as a solution for stormwater runoff at schools. Through a partnership with Orange County Coastkeeper and Climate Resolve, and through the commitment of Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD) teachers and staff, GGUSD was awarded a $1.9 grant to install bioswales and drought-tolerant landscaping at three GGUSD schools: Bolsa Grande High School, Los Amigos High School and Garden Grove High School.

The new drought-tolerant landscaping will:

  • Beautify the campus and attract pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies
  • Conserve water
  • Prevent polluted water from flowing into local waterways
  • Reduce maintenance costs

Turning Gardens into Science Labs  

“One way DROPS has affected me is it’s made me prouder of our school, since we’re implementing ways to conserve water and actually care about the environment.”- Benjamin Lee, student treasurer of Santiago High School’s sustainability council

“Being a part of the DROPS program has expanded my knowledge about conservation. We got people who wouldn’t normally be interested in the [environment] to learn and to be engaged in making others learn about it.”- Esmeralda Mitchell, student president of Santiago High School’s sustainability council

“One of my favorite memories of doing this is since I was able to educate students and teachers, I was also able to educate my family – since we didn’t really do much recycling or take the time to care. I was able to set up a recycling station for paper, cans and bottles at my house, well as at my cousin’s.”- Ryan Do, President of Bolsa Grande High School’s wilderness adventure club

“What I like about (DROPS) is that I get to teach some of my friends and push them to participate in recycling as well. I make sure that they throw away trash in the trash can and recycles in the recycling bin, and make sure they don’t litter.”- Courtney Morrisey, DROPS Coordinator at Bolsa Grande High School’s wilderness adventure club

“The DROPS program was very interactive for me, because I was able to be in a video for the DROPS assembly, I was one of the main characters, and because of that video, I was able to educate other students at Bolsa, and also educate myself, too.”- Salm Musalam, secretary of Bolsa Grande High School’s wilderness adventure club

“When students interact with their local environment, they gain a new understanding for their role in protecting it. With water-wise gardens just steps outside the classroom, students from low-income and inland communities have new hands-on learning opportunities – at no cost to schools.” – Dyana Pena, Orange County Coastkeeper’s education director

Our Favorite Moments from the Water-Wise Unveiling

The school’s own student jazz group set the stage as guests entered the renovated campus. Jerry Hills, Director of Facilities at Garden Grove Unified School District, opened the program by welcoming everyone and thanking our special guests, Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones and Board of Education President Bob Harden.

Seth Jacobson of Climate Resolve followed by specifically thanking key teachers Teri Osborne, Jerid Johnson and Jeannine Verellen. Seth explained the magnitude of this accomplishment by informing us that “the DROPS program had only $25.5 million available for grants statewide, and amazingly, Garden Grove won a grant of approximately $2 million, which was one of the largest grants in the state.”

Environmental science teacher Jerid Johnson explained how these features are now a living laboratory for his students to use for water quality monitoring, pollinator counts, soil labs and more. Students shared their experiences in their wilderness adventure club and how the DROPS program makes them feel more connected to their local environment.

To close out the afternoon, landscape contractors Bob and Janet Stone led tours through the adjacent bioswale and answered questions about the plants and the design.

Board Education President Bob Harden shared, “It is exciting that GGUSD is a leader in protecting water quality and that our students are playing an active role in water conservation at their campuses.”

Our Impact

Garden Grove Unified School District continues to be a leader in water quality protection and conservation.

Collectively, the features at all three schools will capture an estimated more than 4.5 million gallons of water per year. This water will recharge our underwater aquifer and protect us from droughts in the future.

Click here to learn more about the DROPS program.

Click here to see the full story in the Orange County Register.

To support transformational programs like these, click here to donate to Orange County Coastkeeper.