Penn State Behrend, UECDC partner to educate students about rain gardens

It often takes years for people to figure out what to do for a living.

Niyokindi Thiery is off to a nice start.

“I want to be a scientist,” the 11-year-old Diehl Elementary School student said while closely observing a rain garden on the campus of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

Thiery was one of 11 students from the Urban Erie Community Development Corp. (UECDC) who visited the college July 16 as part of a six-week course being taught by Ann Quinn, lecturer in biology and faculty adviser for Greener Behrend. Quinn is teaching the students about rain gardens; they plan to plant their own rain garden later this summer on the campus of UECDC, 2046 E. 19th St., Erie.

Rain gardens are beneficial to the environment as they help filter water runoff pollution, recharge local groundwater, conserve water, improve water quality and protect rivers and streams.

UECDC received a grant from Freshwater Future, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Housing Authority of the City of Erie for a rain garden with the stipulation that the students must fulfill a six-week educational requirement before the garden could be planted.

“They needed a science educator,” Quinn said. “It’s been a perfect fit.”

Students in the class range from grades four through high school. The students come from a number of Erie Public Schools, including Diehl Elementary School, Wilson Middle School, East High School and Edison Elementary School.

“The students have been very engaged. They’re very willing to stretch themselves and learn. They understand the importance of putting in a rain garden,” Quinn said.

For evidence, look no further than Thiery.

During his visit to campus, Thiery was quick to point out the insects and plants that he recognized. He even suggested that the group spend more time looking at the plants.

“It’s interesting. I like being able to learn new stuff,” Thiery said. “I’m very, very excited about this. I’m like the most excited person I know about this stuff.”

In the fall, Penn State Behrend and UECDC will once again collaborate as Quinn’s Civic Community Engagement class is going to work to develop an after-school program for UECDC’s students.

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Last Updated July 22, 2014