Rising environmental concerns in Forest Lake, Minnesota, and the reality of climate change effects sparked a partnership between Rice Creek Watershed District (RCWD) and Forest Lake Area Schools (FLAS) to find a joint solution. FLAS recognized their heavy water use for irrigation needs, while RCWD wanted to improve water savings using large-scale BMPs. In an effort to reduce pollution and mitigate flooding concerns, the two entities recognized they could be more impactful through combining forces. However, what sprouted from the project was something neither could predict.
Bolton & Menk engineered a stormwater reuse pond to allow Forest Lake High School (FLHS) to irrigate their campus, reduce the volume of water entering Clear Lake, improve water quality, and reduce clean groundwater usage. The school is home to an active environmental club and has natural resources curriculum already in place, so the teaching staff saw the learning opportunity the stormwater reuse pond provides and decided to bring the real-world experiment to the classroom. Bolton & Menk engineers stepped in to help students apply their knowledge to real-world solutions and the possibilities of environmental protection.
The project received a Board of Water and Soil Resources Clean Water Fund, so RCWD was able to develop new curriculum for FLHS staff to create experiments for math, biology, and chemistry classes to learn from the stormwater reuse pond. Bolton & Menk engineers took it from there and led a four-hour training session with FLHS teachers to apply the curriculum to the project. Finding pathogens in the stormwater and the possibility of learning about water budgets to track how much irrigation comes from the grounds to the ponds are just some of the courses of potential education. The progression of the project to the classroom was successful because of the partnerships between RCWD and FLAS, and Bolton & Menk.
“Over the course of this project, Bolton & Menk developed a trusting partnership with those involved and have resulted in a final product that exceeded our initial expectations.” Said a former City Administrator at the City of Forest Lake.
All three parties have enjoyed the successful partnership that not only brought sustainable solutions to environmental protection and climate change challenges, but also brought STEM knowledge to young learners and future leaders in Forest Lake. This education opportunity isn’t stopping at the stormwater reuse pond at FLHS–there is potential to bring this platform to all levels of learning at FLAS. Through nourishing partnerships, we hope to further educate through possibilities such as community rain gardens that can involve all ages of learners.
“Making students aware of the complex topics affecting our communities, and allowing them to problem solve potential solutions, is central to the educational process at Forest Lake Area Schools. This becomes more meaningful to students when we can engage them in the work.” said Mike Miron, career & tech ed/work-based learning coordinator at Forest Lake Area High School.