Three-Way Conservation Project
Melding Bee Patches, Rain Catchers, & Worm Wizards
Our conservationist Team developed a conceptual design for changing a bare, compacted soil landscape at our office headquarters (where we rent space from the 180 Studios makerspace) into a demonstration pollinator habitat, water conservation, and waste composting project. The 180 Studios Project enlisted the help of Social Advocates for Youth who brought students from Elsie Allen High School to the site in the summer of 2019 to begin the multi-faced construction project. Our "Oasis" project was an opprtunity to provide environmental education and action and demonstrate how everyone can make a remarkable difference with just a little thought and effort.
First, the SAY participants received health-and-safety instructions as they would be handling construction tools throughout the project, and Santa Rosa was also passing through a warm spell and keeping hydrated was important. The students also received classroom time in the steps involved in this three-pronged conservation project. Led by our Conservationist Stefan Stehling, the youth received STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) training both in the classroom and on-the-job. They helped design and construct a bountiful habitat garden to be drip irrigated by a rooftop rainwater collection and storage system as they learned principles of ecology and conservation, and turned a bare landscape adjacent to a parking area into a beautiful, sustainable pollinator habitat which will be irrigated with water collected over the winter, and nourished by composted wastes.
Oona Heacock and the rest of her team taught the youth about the four basic needs for a pollinator habitat – year-round forage, water, nesting areas, and safety from pesticides – and how to develop those needs into a perennial garden requiring little maintenance. The plants selected for use in the garden were chosen for their suitability for the site, ability to create a green zone, and utility as pollinator habitat.
The youth also learned how to calculate the roof runoff volume from rain, needed tank size for collecting the winter runoff, how to divert excess water into a designed conveyance, and how to set up a drip system for summer irrigation of the patch. Our "Oasis Project" taught the students installation techniques and best practices suitable for small scale landscaping needs.
Our worm composting systems are easily constructed, and the youth learned how to make the bin materials, assemble the bins, add media to support the red worms which over time will break down food scraps and similar wastes, and allow us to retrieve the rich compost formed by the worms. The project involved cutting large sections of plastic drain pipe to make the bin, assembling a wooden platform on which the bins were placed, and lastly sewing insect-exclusion nets to keep unwanted flies and other insects from entering the bins. The picture at below left is of a standard bin.