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Citizen Science Series: Building a Rain Garden

December 15, 2013

By Kristin Yerkie, Camp staff

group photo with dirtTen Girl Scouts are participating in Girl Scout – NC Coastal Pines’ Citizen Science series program which focuses on soil science and the impact eroded soil has as a stream pollutant in North Carolina. This fall, the girls have met with scientists and local engineers to learn about causes and costs of erosion while developing their own plan for a rain garden at Camp Mary Atkinson in Selma, NC.

In their first session, the girls met with Amanda “Dirt” Leisch a Soil Science PhD student at NC State University to build their own 3D model of the Leadership Center at Camp Mary Atkinson and the surrounding grounds using kinetic sand. This project allowed the girls to test out different shapes and designs for their rain garden.

The girls then met with wetland scientist from Sepi Engineering, Shawn Clark, fish and wildlife biologist with US Fish and Wildlife Service, JohnAnn Shearer, and conservation incentives program director with NCDENR, Scott Pohlman. The local professionals explained their design and implementation process for the rain garden they built.

The second session brought the girls out to Camp Mary Atkinson where they got down and dirty! Using augers the girls took soil samples of several locations and saw firsthand the different levels of soil that exist beneath the surface. There is an entire history underneath our feet every day and these Girl Scouts certainly had to put all their energy into digging it up.

Session three brought the girls to the research grounds of NC State University. The girls tested which covering would provide the best filtering for their rain garden by using a rain simulator. The next experiment taught the girls about polyachrilamide, PAM for short. This substance is used to assist in the filtering of water by adhering to the particles in the water and making them clump together.

imaging software2The team then got to use state of the art technology in the Tangible GIS Visualization lab. Using the 3D model they had created a couple sessions previously, the kinetic sand and the Kinnect imaging software, they tested which shape would lead to the most filtration and decrease in polluted runoff from the Leadership Center.

During these first sessions the girls learned a great deal about the science behind building their own rain garden. They couldn’t wait for their final two sessions where they would create their final design and submit it to the engineers for approval. They are truly Citizen Scientists in action!

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