Ocean Friendly Gardens, Basic Class, GAP, HOW
February 16 2015

School Garden Overcomes Challenges & Goes With The Flow

by Jocelyn Gary

The Peninsula School Rain Garden shows the importance of patience, utilizing Surfrider chapter resources, and developing partnerships. The project team had to address some issues: flooding problems in a school courtyard, clogged storm drain piping, and a small budget.

This project to develop a garden in the school’s courtyard started in May of 2013 and was completed in September 2014. After receiving the information that the Portland Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation got a $10,000 Community Watershed Stewardship Program grant, meetings were started to go over the initial planning and develop what the garden is going to look like. Meeting attendees included Portland Public Schools, the City of Portland, and Jocelyn Gary (Surfrider-Portland Ocean Friendly Gardens Program Co-Chair, at left in white visor) and Carlos Galindo representing Peninsula School (Kindergarden-8th grade).

Jocelyn developed the 3 units of curriculum that she was going to use for the fall to teach two 5th grade classes:

  • Unit 1 – what a rain garden is and its benefits;
  • Unit 2 - assess the courtyard and researched native plants in the second unit;
  • Unit 3 - they discovered landscape architecture, developed a plan for the site and designed a rain garden for the courtyard based upon what they’d learned in the previous units of study.

Jocelyn’s principal asked her to attend monthly Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings to keep the parents and community members updated on the progress of the garden. They learned about Surfrider Foundation and volunteered in many ways – even during the day to help teach the classes. Two parents started rain gardens in their own homes because of this project!

Jocelyn also met with Hannah Dickerson of Rain City Gardens to develop the preliminary plant plans for the garden as well as do some soil research and take data of the area to compute how big the rain garden should be.  Surfrider-Oregon Policy Manager, Charlie Plybon, and Jocelyn reviewed the project design and agreed that additional support was need. Surfrider member Allan Schmidt volunteered, developing to-scale computer drawings for the school district (which underwent six different evaluations: thanks for the many hours, Allan!). General contractor, Todd Blossom of Blossom Earthworks was hired and did a great job leading the project. Jerad Lillegard was assigned as the school’s project manager.

Jerad was put in charge of fixing a large sink hole, replacing a underground storm drain piping that was clogged with tree roots. The school district began to see that the $10,000 grant was insufficient helped with excavation, grading, permits, and plumbing for the project. Todd and Jocelyn spent two weeks getting the gift certificates and necessary supplies for the garden planting/implementation in the fall.

The district did pull through and finished the grading, excavation, and plumbing of the rain garden by Labor Day. To my excitement, this meant that Surfrider could finally hold their work parties and we could prepare the garden for planting.

Todd and his crew successfully installed the pipe to the rain garden on August 27th. There was a work party on September 6th with lots of parents and students, and four Surfrider volunteers. Working in 96 degree heat, they completed a pathway, got a basalt rock fence installed, and tilled the ground and mixed the soil for planting. On Friday, September 19th, the plants were brought to the school by Todd and his crew, and a group of volunteers got them laid out in the courtyard for planting preparation. Then on Monday, September 22nd, the two now-6th grade classrooms planted the plants to the rain garden and it’s finally installed.






A wonderful dedication ceremony was held in May of 2015, and watch the video: