Fort Mill High’s FFA Chapter was recently awarded a $500 grant from the National FFA Organization’s Living to Serve environmental grant program, for its year-long service learning project – a rain barrel system that will be installed on the tool shed next to the school’s greenhouse.
“Our chapter had some 55-gallon blue barrels (so) we decided to use them to construct a rain barrel system,” said Fort Mill High School FFA adviser Kristen Reinhardt. “With the new tool shed that was built last spring, it would be a great opportunity for my students to see a rain barrel system installed and working, so they can see exactly how they can conserve natural resources.”
The grant gives students the opportunity to install a system that will collect rainfall and then be used to water plants grown at the school.
“The system will collect rain in the gutters on the tool shed, then it will be carried down through a pipe to four, 55-gallon barrels,” Reinhardt said. “It will be stored there until it is used to water plants inside and outside of the greenhouse.”
The conservation practice of roof runoff management is a topic students cover in their Introduction to AgriScience course, which also covers conservation tillage, cover crops and manure management.
“These are practices that can improve soil and reduce erosion,” Reinhardt said. “I think it is important for (the students) to physically see our FFA Chapter implementing a system that reduces erosion here on our campus.”
The project also illustrates the final line of the FFA motto, Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve, which encourages FFA members to serve their communities.
The LTS Environmental Grants, funded by Bayer and CSX, take community service one step further, by creating service-learning opportunities, which allow students to apply both leadership and education skills that they learn in school and through FFA.
The grant is open to all FFA Chapters nationwide, although Fort Mill was one of only two chapters selected this year from South Carolina.
Fort Mill residents are invited to enjoy the fruits of the students’ labor in April, at the annual greenhouse sale. The fundraising event will include plants grown by students, including geraniums, sweet potato vine, calibrachoa, lobelia, delphinium, lavender and salvia. A complete list of available flowers with prices will be available in March on the group’s website at fortmillffa.wix.com/blueandgold.
The students will also have pamphlets available for community members with details on how to construct a rain barrel system.
“Our hope in doing this project,” Reinhardt said, “is for the community to come and look at our rain barrel system and get ideas of how they can conserve resources at their home.”