Members of the Rotary Club of Arcata Sunrise recently facilitated the creation of a rainwater catchment system for Arcata Elementary School in partnership with Cal Poly Humboldt students.
The main aim of the project was to provide the school – on Baldwin Street in Arcata – with enough water to maintain its garden and nearby orchard. Another goal was to educate students about water use and sustainability, according to a Cal Poly Humboldt report on the stormwater catchment system project posted on Appropedia.org.
“Lonny Grafman (Cal Poly Humboldt speaker) gave a presentation to our club at a meeting a few years ago and shared some of the projects he’s been involved in,” said AJ Gonzales, former Rotary club president and current co-chair of community service.
“(He) … offered to have a group of students to help design a rainwater catchment system under his guidance,” Gonzales said. “Rotarians connected with local schools and Arcata Elementary best matched our grant application timeline and funding scope. This project contributes to several Rotary causes, such as “environmental protection” and “youth engagement”.
Grafman – who is also the author of “To Catch the Rain” (https://www.tocatchtherain.org/) – says he enjoys working with various student groups, organizations and community members “to build the resilience of our infrastructure and each other.”
He said, “I have been very excited about this intergenerational project linking Cal Poly Humboldt with the Rotary Club of Sunrise Arcata and Arcata Elementary to build meaningful infrastructure together.
“Humboldt students not only come away with greater applied knowledge and greater pride, but also increased confidence in what they can accomplish,” Grafman said. “Students at Arcata Elementary have greater access to environmental stewardship knowledge and are inspired by seeing what students can do. Community connections are strengthened and emergency infrastructure is strengthened. Additionally, detailed project details are shared on Appropedia.org so others can learn, adapt, and implement more rainwater into their lives.
Rotary funded the project with the help of a matching grant from Rotary District 5130. Club members also helped dig and level the space for placement of the water cistern, Gonzales said.
“CPH students designed and installed the components of the catchment system – from the gutter filters to the conveyance and filter system,” Gonzales said. “(The) rainwater is captured and filtered for use in the (school) garden.”
This isn’t the first time Grafman and his Cal Poly Humboldt students have taken part in community service projects.
“With my CPH courses, we have built several hundred community projects in our community and around the world, including more than 100 with local schools,” he said.
Last spring, students in her Engineering 215—Introduction to Design class worked with Zane Middle School to design helpful teaching tools and improve current school areas. This included making bat and bird boxes to house migrating and local birds; setting up a portable hand sanitizer system with trash can, building upcycled/upcycled snowboard benches, creating a math trail to help teach math concepts, and working on a “Triangle of Life” aesthetic framework for students including four circular concrete planters filled with various plants.
Arcata Elementary School Principal Victoria Parker said the school had had a water catchment system on its wish list for some time, but on a smaller scale.
“Our goal is to make our garden as self-sufficient as possible, and with the drought, we also want to be good stewards of the environment. It was very fortuitously that the Rotary Club of Arcata Sunrise approached us with this fully funded project. Additionally, the project involved collaboration with the Cal Poly Humboldt Environmental Engineering Student Project. The Cal Poly student team has done an amazing job using our existing infrastructure to create a flexible pickup system for us,” Parker said.
The school’s garden and orchard are used by all grades and in a variety of ways, including classroom science projects, reading buddies, arts and mindfulness activities, Parker noted.
“Students also eat what they grow – fresh raspberries are always preferred,” she said. “As part of our wellness policy, we strive to teach students healthier eating habits throughout life.”
Parker says it was very exciting to see the rainwater catchment system project come to life.
“Right after the installation was complete, we had a few days of heavy rain and it was great to listen to all that water flowing into our new reservoir,” she said. “It’s really amazing the amount of water that can be captured by the runoff from the roof. Our plan is to use the water to maintain our garden and orchard during the drier summer months.