The RainScapes for Schools program is a voluntary, pilot program to both reduce stormwater pollution from Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) school grounds and provide educational opportunities for students on water quality, ecology, wildlife habitat, and horticulture. Additionally, RainScapes can be used to strengthen students’ connection to nature during their school day—one of the key recommendations of Maryland’s Children in Nature partnership to bolster environmental literacy as defined by the Maryland State Department of Education.
RainScapes for Schools provides materials and funding for the curriculum based stormwater management oriented projects. Having RainScapes installed on school property is one way that Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) can help the County meet the regulatory requirements of its state-issued MS4 stormwater permit (MCPS are co-permittees with the County of the stormwater permit). All MCPS schools are eligible to apply for the RainScapes for Schools program.
- RainScapes for Schools (details are on this page)
- RainScapes for high schools
Private schools in Montgomery County interested in installing RainScapes projects and receiving a rebate should apply through our RainScapes Rewards Rebate Program for commercial and institutional facilities.
What Kind of Projects are Eligible?
Three types of natural drainage projects on school campuses will be funded through the RainScapes for Schools program:
Classroom Rain Garden
A rain garden is a garden that is designed to infiltrate a predicted volume of stormwater close to where the rainwater falls based on a known drainage area and predicted rainfall amount. It looks like a shallow depression in the ground but otherwise can blend into other planting areas visually.
Students can be taught lessons about the water cycle, stormwater control, and watershed health through observations and hands on learning opportunities with the rain garden. Rain gardens are also gardens which may be used for habitat lessons and many other curricular applications which are outside of the science content area.
Classroom Conservation Landscapes
Conservation landscapes are intended to support the reestablishment of the native flora of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, reduce runoff by supporting soil decompaction and enhance local landscape aesthetics while providing learning opportunities for students. The approach entails removing turf areas (the square foot area is specified in the Conservation Landscaping application) and replanting with habitat-supporting species. 75 percent of the plants selected should be native to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The RainScapes for Schools program will provide a list of plants suitable for conservation landscapes as well as a list of other suitable resources.
Students can be taught about the importance of the interrelationship between the people who live in watersheds, how watershed health is supported through environmental stewardship, and how watershed health is reflected in healthy landscapes.
Lessons pertaining to plant community composition, impacts of stormwater runoff, and the change in runoff depending on land cover are applicable to several disciplines. Many observational opportunities exist for curricular ties across the disciplines—from science to fine arts. Each of the native forest types in Montgomery County evolved with a community of plants specific to the environmental conditions of the county. These plant communities have similar growing requirements within themselves, leading to lower maintenance solutions for landscapes when you replant using a plant community conservation landscaping model.
Classroom Urban Tree Canopy
Montgomery County watersheds were originally all tree covered. As our county has changed from rural to urban, many watersheds in the county have experienced significant loss of tree cover. Replacing trees reestablishes the urban tree canopy. These projects are to encourage tree planting in the urbanized areas especially, but schools in other areas are also eligible. All tree placement on the property for RainScapes for Schools projects should be done to provide shading of impervious surfaces such as sidewalks, parking lots, play structures, patio spaces, or heating/cooling units. The only trees included are canopy trees native to Montgomery County. Ornamental and understory trees such as dogwoods are too small to qualify for this type of project but may be part of a conservation landscape project.
Students can measure temperature differences to verify the benefits of shade and learn about trees, healthy forest cover and other watershed health indicators. Stormwater reduction from trees and the cooling effects of trees on water temperatures can be researched, as well as how trees provide a source of inspiration for assignments in several areas of study.
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Each Montgomery County public school is eligible for a funding maximum of $5,000 per property for the sum of all projects. The three eligible project types include rain gardens, conservation landscaping and urban tree canopy. RainScapes will provide materials up to the maximum value; we do not provide funds to be expended.
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If you are interested in installing a rain garden, conservation landscape or tree planting project through RainScapes for Schools, please contact Ann English, RainScapes Coordinator, at email@example.com for application information. Applications can be submitted via email.
Applicants are encouraged to apply early as funds are limited by fiscal year (July 1 through June 30) and there are spring and fall deadlines to allow for project review by both MCPS and DEP.
- Applications for spring projects are due by Dec 15th to Rainscapes
- Applications for fall projects are due by March 15th to Rainscapes
Note: if you already have project approval from MCPS, these deadlines could be flexible assuming that the project meets our requirements.
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Each MCPS school is required to do a comprehensive site evaluation prior to selecting their project using a checklist included in the project application. When selecting a project type, consider how it would help to meet educational goals, and also consider resources needed for first-time installation and on-going maintenance. Projects should support educational efforts and not be part of meeting a facilities requirement for on-site stormwater management. Each project is expected to include a planting design and maintenance plan and must receive approval from the appropriate facilities management office prior to installation. A facilities form must be submitted as part of the application package.
A RainScapes for Schools School Agreement signed by the school principal must be submitted to DEP (see sample in Section 7 of the support documents (PDF, 30 pp, 378K)). This signed Letter of Agreement between the school principal and DEP must be submitted to verify that this is a project supported by the principal, that the on-site building services personnel will be informed about this project, and that there is a school-based commitment to maintaining the project. If you have questions or concerns regarding this process please contact us at Rainscapes.Application@montgomerycountymd.gov.
List of Project Requirements
- A comprehensive site assessment to identify site conditions and determine the best site for a project
- Stated curriculum objectives to be met by the RainScapes Project
- Approval of the appropriate facilities management office as indicated on the MCPS Facilities management form
- Support of the school principal
- A planting plan
- A stated plan for implementation
- A maintenance plan
- All requirements outlined in the application (including the design guidelines and criteria for project eligibility) must be met
- Projects must be installed within six months of the preliminary inspection date
- RainScapes or other approved sign must be installed at each project (A RainScapes educational sign for each project will be provided by Department of Environmental Protection.)
Upon approval of the project by all appropriate parties, DEP RainScapes for Schools will provide materials not to exceed $5,000/site to support the installation of the proposed project(s). All decisions on funding are final and are at the sole discretion of the Department of Environmental Protection.
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Follow the three steps listed below. A more detailed set of information is provided in the RainScapes for Schools support documents (PDF, 30 pp, 378K).
STEP ONE – Comprehensive Site Evaluation and Application Preparation
- Read the materials and obtain a base map from the school system GIS office or Google Earth
- Conduct a comprehensive site assessment as detailed in the RainScapes for Schools support documents (PDF, 30 pp, 378K) (Section 1). If you need assistance, contact the DEP RainScapes office.
- Select a project type and fill out the appropriate application. Include your estimated budget with the application.
- Compile all necessary documentation outlined in the application including:
- A "before" photo of the proposed project area (up to six COMPRESSED photos may be submitted to Rainscapes@montgomerycountymd.gov)
- A plan
- An itemized budget covering all project costs requested to be covered by DEP
- A proposed maintenance schedule (Sample template in support documents (PDF, 30 pp, 378K), Section 3)
- Have the application signed by all appropriate parties.
- E-mail the application, photos, and required documentation to Rainscapes@montgomerycountymd.gov
- Submit your Facilities Form for Projects at the same time you submit your RainScapes Project form to expedite project processing.
- After you receive application approval from the Department of Environmental Protection (but before beginning the project) a preliminary site inspection and consultation will be scheduled. (Allow three weeks for processing).
STEP TWO – Before you Begin the Project
When your application has been approved by DEP:
- You will be contacted by the Department of Environmental Protection and the preliminary site inspection will be scheduled.
- For all RainScapes for Schools projects, you must contact MISS UTILITY and have the project area marked prior to site inspection. Note: ask your building services manager to help you with getting utilities marked on school property.
- Don’t begin your project without DEP verification of suitability and approval from the MCPS Div of Construction Facilities Office.
- Materials itemized in your budget will be provided by DEP, up to the maximum allowable value. If costs will exceed the funding allowed, the school will need to provide funding for all materials not covered by the funding limit.
- A RainScapes sign will be provided to the school for installation by the school.
STEP THREE – After You Finish the Project
- Call or email the Department of Environmental Protection RainScapes for Schools program to schedule a final inspection. Inspections will generally be scheduled within 10 business days.
- At the final inspection, correct installation of the project will be verified, and the project area will be photographed.
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State and Local Curricular Requirements
RainScapes for Schools will provide materials and funds to projects which are linked to K-12 curricular goals and which will improve stormwater runoff conditions on school property. The program supports the Maryland State Department of Natural Resources "Partnership for Children" recommendations on Environmental Literacy Goals by funding projects which provide environmental features on school properties and which can be used to teach about stormwater, water quality, native plants, wildlife habitat pollination, Bay health and other components of environmental literacy at each of the K-12 levels.
The MDSE standards, which are available on their web site, cover a range of environmental concerns. The standards are interactive and focus on the need for students to develop critical thinking skills. The seven standards for environmental literacy are detailed on the MDSE web site.
Montgomery County Public Schools also has a number of curricular standards in their K-12 framework which will be supported by RainScapes projects. These include, but are not limited to, the science curriculum for 2nd, 4th and 6th grades and the AP Environmental Science and Environmental Horticulture courses.
Importantly, these unique landscaping enhancements provide teachers with a renewable resource for hands on education at their schools for the subjects of environmental stewardship, habitat enhancement, and conservation. Other subjects such as art, English writing assignments, social studies and biology are also able to be taught in a holistic manner using the environment as an integrated context for learning for curricular goals using the projects built with RainScapes funding.
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Alignment with the MCPS Strategic Plan
RainScapes for Schools projects provide an opportunity for schools to strengthen community and family relationships for their student populations. Support for the project from year to year will typically be shared among a parent or community group and a teacher or group of teachers at a school.
Hands-on, inquiry based learning opportunities are provided by the experience of planting, observing, maintaining and learning from gardens and habitat based site projects. Such inquiry based learning has compelling support in the data as being a source of boosting student achievement, improving behavior and reducing truancy. The benefits ascribed to garden and habitat based on-site education are consistent with the 2008 Montgomery County Public Schools Strategic Plan Academic Priority Goal: Strengthen family-school relationships and continue to expand civic, business, and community partnerships that support improved student achievement.
MDSE standards: RainScapes for Schools supports the Maryland State Department of Education’s Environmental Literacy Goals by funding projects which provide environmental features on school properties and which can be used to teach about stormwater, Bay health and environmental literacy at each of the K-12 levels. The MDSE standards cover a range of environmental concerns. The standards are interactive and focus on the need for students to develop critical thinking skills.
Low Impact Development of Schools—A new web site resource for schools to use for LID and sustainable stormwater practices as part of an EPA Office of Water Assistance Agreement.
The MDSE web site covers a range of environmental concerns. The standards are interactive and focus on the need for students to develop critical thinking skills. The seven standards for environmental literacy are detailed on the MDSE web site. The final standard, Sustainability, forms the other major support to the framework. Natural processes are studied through the standards relating to the life and Earth/Space sciences. Human systems are investigated through differing geographic, cultural, societal, economic and political views. The interaction of these natural and human systems constitutes the majority of the study, with the concept of sustainability as the equilibrium point—the touchstone of positive human and natural interactions.
In addition, critical thinking, research, use of modeling and technology, and methods of social and scientific investigation are addressed through existing Skills and Process Standards. These can be viewed at:
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