Rain barrel community project wins Pennsylvania's Earth Day 40 Challenge

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HARRISBURG, PA, April 22, 2010 -- Haine Middle School, Cranberry Township, Butler County, is the grand prize winner of Pennsylvania's Earth Day 40 Schools Challenge for its unique project to provide residents with rain barrels to conserve water and improve its quality, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary John Quigley announced today.

"What made Haine Middle School's rain barrel project stand out was its goal of educating community residents by providing a class and raising enough money to then provide participants with a rain barrel. That ensured they not only learned about the issue, but also took action to conserve and improve water quality," Quigley said of the project undertaken by 5th graders at the school.

Quigley said the following schools received honorable mentions for their respective projects: Northern Cambria Middle School, Cambria County, "Biodiversity: If We Plant It, They Will Come;" Avon Grove Charter School, Chester County, "Big on Biodiversity;" and St. Marys Area Middle School, Elk County, "Bring Back the Butterflies."

"There is no doubt that the 21 schools that took our Earth Day 40 Challenge fulfilled the goals we outlined when we kicked off this initiative - to have young people take action and inspire each of us to do the same for our environment," Quigley said. "Every project that was completed was creative, enthusiastic, stimulating and, most of all, encouraging about the next generation of leaders who will care about our planet."

Haine Middle School "Rainkeepers" first researched what would help conserve water in their community and raised funds to purchase rain barrels. The students then conducted an instructional class on March 23 in partnership with Lorin Meeder, the environmental program director for Cranberry Township. Thirty rain barrels were given to township residents who attended the class.

A rain barrel system attaches to a gutter to catch rain water from the roof, preventing runoff. The water can then be used for watering a garden or washing a car.

"When learning about groundwater contamination in science we decided to explore Cranberry Township's drinking water source and learned that our growing community made our source of drinking water no longer enough. That's when we decided to help our community conserve water," said Steven Smith, principal at Haine Middle School. "As a result, we decided to teach people how rain barrels could help conserve and prevent runoff, and then took it a step further to actually provide the rain barrels."

Smith credited teacher Allison Stebbins for guiding the students through research, outreach and fundraising to make the project a success.

The grand prize will turn Haine Middle School into a park for a day before the end of this school year, with classes like Frisbee golf, fishing skills practice, geology programs and nature walks. The prize also includes a $1,000 gift certificate to WARDS Scientific provided by Waste Management; 10 fishing rods with tackle provided by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission; a framed wildlife print provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission; Illuminating Education program materials, including a classroom supply of compact fluorescent light bulbs provided by the Department of Environmental Protection; and a plaque and a native tree for planting at the school provided by DCNR.

The honorable mention prizes are a plaque and native tree, a series of four "Our Changing Climate" books provided by DEP, and 10 wall charts and the book "A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America" provided by the Fish and Boat Commission.

Earth Day 40 Schools Challenge projects were carefully evaluated by a special panel of judges.

Each project in the Earth Day 40 Schools Challenge was required to be related to one of five themes: Super sustainable foods; Big on biodiversity; Transportation that treads lightly; Reduce that carbon footprint; and Wild about water.

The Earth Day 40 celebration is a cooperative effort of DCNR and the departments of Agriculture, Education, Environmental Protection, and Transportation, as well as the Fish and Boat and Game commissions. Outside partners include the Philadelphia Zoo, Waste Management and World Environment Day 2010, which Pittsburgh is hosting.

For more information about Earth Day 40 or to take the Earth Day 40 Challenge for individuals or groups, visit www.iconservepa.org and choose "Take the Challenge," or call (717) 772-9101.

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