Longfellow School students take the initiative to battle back playground erosion

Here’s an interesting story coming from the Portland Public Schools. According to Longfellow School Principal Dawn Carrigan, storm water runoff cascading through her school’s playground had become so bad it was washing away soil and blocking the kids’ access to certain areas.

Like any good school community, the folks at Longfellow decided to make the erosion problem a teaching moment, and one the students could relate to quite directly. No need to hang the lesson on a worldview at a scope the kids aren’t old enough to have yet.

Why is controlling erosion important? Because it’s eating away at your playground.

They couldn’t have made the subject more relevant unless they’d found a way to reroute the Fore River through their bedrooms.

So what did the Longfellow community do about it? Starting almost a year ago, some of the older kids in the building began looking into solutions. Here’s a few paragraphs issued by the district in a recent in-house story about the ordeal:

The project began in the spring of 2011. Fifth graders studied erosion and its effect on their playground as well as the city’s storm water system. They presented their findings to a panel of parent experts, including a landscape architect and two civil engineers. The parents volunteered their time and designed a slope plan to prevent erosion onto the school’s lower playground.

The School Grounds Greening Coalition is leading the effort to landscape the slope. Maine Landscape Solutions, owned by a Longfellow parent, donated the use of heavy equipment and labor. The city of Portland has provided more than 200 feet of reclaimed granite curbing.

Michael McPherson of Berlin City Auto Group hands a $3,500 check to Longfellow School Principal Dawn Carrigan. (Photo courtesy of Portland Public Schools)

The latest news in the effort to save the playground is that Berlin City Auto Group has awarded the school a $3,500 Drive for Education grant to help cover the project, which will entail landscaping, the planting of trees, building rain gardens and — this is my favorite part — establishment of a fairy garden on school grounds.

That grant money comes on top of more than $2,750 worth of money, material and in-kind donations from the aforementioned coalition, as well as Portland Trails.

Another $925 will come pouring in from Project Canopy to help cover the trees to be planted, which will take place this coming spring. Before too long, the roots, adjusted slope and other measures should keep the water from gouging into the lower playground, and the Longfellow students will have followed the whole evolution from problem to ecological solution.

Said Carrigan: “They are learning about science in a way that directly benefits them by improving their play space.”


Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.