Storm Drain Mural Project 2021
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Storm Drain Mural Project 2021

Most conversations about stormwater management only include scientists, engineers, designers, and contractors, but urban water quality is an issue that affects us all. That’s why the Providence Stormwater Innovation Center reached out to local schools—to teach the next generation about the dangers of polluted water, the current solutions, and the reality that there’s much more to learn. By bringing real-world experiences into the curriculum, we hoped to leave a lasting impact on the students, empowering them to think beyond their classroom walls about the problems that need to be solved in their own communities. This year, we worked with three schools in Providence and Cranston: Eden Park Elementary, Sophia Academy, and the New Urban Arts Knights at Central High School. Educators from the Audubon Society of Rhode Island gave students an overview of water issues: Where does stormwater go? How does it become polluted? What is green infrastructure? And how can we all help reduce pollution? Sophia Academy and the NUA Knights also joined us in the park for green infrastructure tours and water quality sampling demonstrations. Then came the fun part—bringing these lessons to life through public art. Teaching artists Brett Windham, Katie Gui, and Eli Shalan learned about stormwater alongside the students. At Eden Park and Sophia Academy, each student then made a drawing that incorporated these lessons. The teaching artists synthesized the students' ideas into three mural designs to be painted on sidewalks beside storm drains. At Eden Park, students researched storm drain locations in their neighborhoods and asked homeowners for permission to paint a mural outside. This proved to be a great way for students to bring their learning home and educate their neighbors! At Sophia Academy and Central High School, the teaching artists and students painted the murals on school grounds. The diversity and creativity of ideas represented in this video speak to the success of this program. We are confident that these students will continue to advocate for the environment in their communities, and that they’ll do so with the kind of innovative thinking that scientists, educators, and artists will need to make a difference in an increasingly urbanized world. We look forward to continuing our relationships with these schools and to extending our educational outreach to new schools this fall.