At Northeast Middle School, a New ‘Green Campus’ is Born

This week, a construction crew put the finishing touches on one of our most exciting Stewardship Fund projects of 2016. Northeast Middle School is converting nearly half of its underused parking lot into a new rain garden — a big one, designed to capture and treat more than 22,400 gallons of polluted stormwater runoff at a time.

But the project is about much more than just a rain garden. Like the redesigned campus at Edison High School, the Northeast Middle School Green Campus will provide an outdoor learning laboratory for students, helping them to understand how our landscapes and actions impact the environment. It also opens up new green space along a key roadway in the heart of Northeast Minneapolis, providing environmental and aesthetic benefits for the whole community.

“What’s exciting about a project like this is that it benefits the community on so many different levels. It’s good for the students, it’s good for the environment and it’s good for the neighbors,” said Kevin Reich, MWMO Board Chair and Minneapolis City Council Member.

The Audubon Neighborhood Association came up with the idea for the project as a way to improve one of the area’s most prominent landmarks. Working together with school officials, the ANA leveraged funds from an MWMO Planning Grant to hire a civil engineering firm to design the new landscape. The ANA and the school then moved forward on the project earlier this year, funding it in part with a $50,000 MWMO Action Grant.

A "before" photo of Northeast Middle School.
A “before” photo showcasing Northeast Middle School’s large, mostly unused parking lot.
An "after" photo of Northeast Middle School.
The same view as above, taken Nov. 10, 2016, just after the rain garden was completed. Approximately 23,000 square feet of pavement was removed.

Seeing it as a unique educational opportunity, the partners involved the students from the beginning. The design firm, Civil Site Group, worked with a science teacher at the school to develop a STEM curriculum that involved students in the planning and analysis phase of the project. Going forward, the school plans to utilize the rain garden as a tool for hands-on learning, and involve science classes in maintaining it.

“With this new green campus project, we’re showing students what it means to be good stewards of the environment,” said Jenny Arneson, District 1 School Board Representative. “Many of the students at Northeast Middle School will go on to attend Edison High School, which means that our two green campuses will be working together to provide hands-on learning opportunities.”

During the last several weeks, a construction crew from Creative Lawn & Landscapes, Inc., removed 23,000 square feet of pavement from the south end of the parking lot. In its place, an S-shaped trench lined with a gravel underdrain was installed and filled with fresh soil that will serve as an ideal growth medium for a variety of native plants.

The rain garden won’t really be in full effect until the plants start blooming next spring, but the sheer size of it makes it hard to miss. We’ll leave you with these photos showing how it was built.

A view of the partially completed rain garden, showing the underdrain.
Due to the high clay content in the soils, an underdrain (shown here) was constructed. The underdrain will carry stormwater into the stormsewer system after it has been filtered by the rain garden.
Workers spreading fresh soil into the trench.
Workers spreading fresh soil into the trench Oct. 28, 2016.
Plants waiting to be planted.
A variety of native perennials were planted in the rain garden.
An illustration showing the planned layout of the new rain garden at Northeast Middle School.
An illustration showing the original landscape plan.

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