Columbia Connections: 7th Grade Storm Drain Art Raises Awareness of Our Interconnected Water System

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

If you’ve been near the Middle School lately, you might have noticed some extra splashes of color here and there around the building. The brightly painted squares of concrete both in front of and behind the Middle School are creations of the 7th grade class and are designed to call attention to Heathwood’s storm drains and their importance in our aquatic ecosystem.

“Our goal was to remind citizens how the storm drain system works and how important it is to keep the water clean, since it goes untreated directly into our rivers,” said 7th grade science teacher Pam Bulak, who collaborated with Middle School art teacher Brian Rego on the project.

The storm drain project came about thanks to Heathwood’s Columbia Connections program. Mrs. Bulak learned about similar projects on a faculty in-service field trip to visit Columbia Connections partner organizations like the Gills Creek Watershed Association and the Congaree Riverkeeper. Over the course of the fall semester, students learned about storm drains, storm water, and the river system thanks to visits to campus from Gills Creek Development Director Erich Miarka, Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stengler, and Education Program Coordinator of the Richland County Stormwater Management Division Chenille Williams. Williams worked with the students to identify drain locations around campus and choose safe paints for their artwork.

In the spring semester, each 7th grade advisory group worked together to design and paint a picture on one of the drains around the Nord Building. The designs are all water-themed and reflect the beauty and joy of an unpolluted waterway.

The project is a great example of what the Columbia Connections program was designed to accomplish, said Columbia Connections Director Donnie Bain: “When our Middle School students are able to learn directly from, and collaborate with, experts in the community, the science they study in the classroom becomes real in much more tangible ways. And these students are learning how to have an impact in their community, and how to pull together different academic pursuits, like science and art, to achieve their goals.”

Interested in learning more about storm drains and about how storm drain art can raise public awareness of their importance? Here are some of the resources the 7th graders drew on:;jsessionid=qu21lnwa5k1s?id=560