Sixth-grade science teacher Cory Terry stood in the center Ocean City Intermediate School's rain garden talking to her students about its plantlife.
The students sat around three picnic tables, shading their eyes from the sun as they watched Terry walk from plant to plant explaining the species.
For the past few years, Terry said she has stood at her classroom windows - which face the garden - staring out at an overgrown, often-flooded and uninviting open space with a lot of potential.
A rain garden, she thought, would provide endless learning opportunities for her students, a solution to the flooding issue and possible pollutants and a much nicer view, she said.
"The rain would run from the roof and flood this area or trickle down to our waterways. Who knows what kind of pollutants are coming from the roof?" she said. "Now, we look out the window and see butterflies."
She applied for the project grant last year, and, with the help community and school officials, the rain garden project was completed over the summer.
The Ocean City Intermediate School's maintenance crew, led by Todd Lauer, regraded the land to correct flooding issues, the Ocean City Shade Tree Commission donated several plants and a tree, the local carpenters union built a new wooden deck in the center of the garden and Ocean City Environmental Commission member Denise Ruch assisted in the plant selection and planting.
A certified Rain Garden Technician with the Rutgers Water Resources Program, Ruch said the rain garden's main purpose is to filter all impurities and pollutants out of groundwater, while alleviating the problem of standing storm water that would otherwise become stagnant and a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
A rain garden is a low maintenance, attractive storm-water solution that creates a wonderful habitat for butterflies, dragonflies and other vitally important pollinators as well as birds and other types of wildlife, she said.
Ocean City Intermediate School's rain garden also will be a model for the community.
"Our goal is to show the students and faculty that they can take this idea and use at their own homes," Ruch said.
Terry said the students seem to love the space, and she suspects she will be spending a lot of time teaching out there.
"I think it's going to become one of those things where now that we have it, we won't be able to imagine not having it," she said. "The space was simply underused before."
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