We learned about urban systems and agriculture during class. I was particularly interested in hearing about rain gardens, that are designed to capture and utilize rainwater runoff. Surprisingly storm water runoff is currently the largest threat to water pollution. We hear all about the oil spill disasters in the ocean, but neglect the consistent downpour of chemicals coming off of our roof shingles, driveways and hard surfaces areas into storm drains. Rain gardens are a perfect way to impede and filter that water – and it beautifies our communities at the same time. They are great at the city level, but can also be employed at home. Many communities have incentive programs to offset the costs of building the garden. Our city offers up to $1000!
Our rain gutters are currently a disaster, and we are looking at replacing them in the very near future. We are already plotting our own rain garden as part of the new project and will share our progress with you in future posts.
There are even permeable pavement options. This is particularly great for large city areas where so much of the soil is covered by concrete, and storm water is a serious issue. Permeable pavement comes in all sorts of designs and types, but the concept allows for rain water to filter through the surface and into the soil below, limiting the amount that is shed off into storm drains. We are excited about the possibilities with this and will be replacing our crumbling driveway with something permeable in the coming years.
We aren’t farmers, but are surrounded by farmland in our central Illinois community. We were fascinated to learn about similar runoff concerns with cropland. There is a large push by water conservation groups for farmers to move to low till and no till practices. Instead of cutting down crops all the way to the ground, farmers leave just the base or the full plant where they stand. This helps absorb water and nutrients into the soil and vastly improves erosion. (and thereby helping to prevent another dust bowl) There is a larger upfront investment for the farmer, but the long term benefits are terrific and no till practices are on the rise! You can read more about the rise of no till farming in this article from the Wall Street Journal.
For the second portion of the day, we learned about archeology and the significant sites here in Illinois. We even got to experience a mock process of archeology detective work. We split into groups and used our objects to determine what period our people were from and what they did. Our group was from the middle woodland period!
I love putting things into proper context, so when our teacher had us stand up and hold the timeline of ancient peoples around the room, it really got to me. The human race is both incredibly short lived – but expansive all at the same time. Its amazing what we have accomplished over these years, and who we have become.
At the end of the day, for the sheer joy of it, we got to try our hands at a Native American atlatl and dart. There were many noble throws, but only one in our class hit the target. 😉 (and it wasn’t Arbor or me)