Alle-Kiski schools participate in Barrels for the Bay program |

Alle-Kiski schools participate in Barrels for the Bay program

Chuck Biedka
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Re
Abby Louis, 9, of New Kensington, waters the plants for their greenhouse at Sonward Youth Programs in New Kensington on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Eric Felack | Tribune-Review
St. Joseph High School 12th-grader Bobby Piskor paints the sky around a farm scene on a rain barrel at the Harrison school on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Eric Felack | Tribune-Review
St. Joseph High School 10th-grader Ethan Fontana examines hydroponic lettuce that was grown at the Harrison school on Thursday, April 21, 2016.

Barrels for the Bay is starting at almost 100 area schools, among them St. Joseph High School in Harrison and an after-school program in New Kensington.

The locally-inspired water quality program is expanding here in time for Earth Day weekend. Friday was Earth Day.

Ethan Fontana,of Lower Burrell is among those who are delighted.

Last month Fontana, a 10th-grader at St. Joseph High School, obtained a rain barrel from Harrison native and St. Joseph graduate Megan Rosenberger, now a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Rosenberger started Barrels by the Bay to teach about water quality and the environment. She started “Barrels” last year in 100 Baltimore and Annapolis-area schools. The “Bay” refers to the Chesapeake Bay, but the concept is universal.

Now, Rosenberger has introduced the program to Western Pennsylvania. She returned to the Alle-Kiski Valley on March 26 for the barrel distribution.

In honor of Earth Day, students this week at St. Joseph's and almost 100 other schools are using imagination and paint to decorate the barrels, which were donated by a soft drink manufacturer.

Teachers are refining lesson plans to accommodate the effort.

At St. Joseph, art students are painting a barrel for the new farm club, of which Fontana is president. The art features an appealing barn and sunflowers.

“Look at how much rainwater won't become stormwater,” Fontana said.

According to the state Department of Natural Resources, two 55-gallon barrels can collect about 110 gallons of water that otherwise would become runoff. Excessive runoff can cause erosion, inundate stormwater sewers or overwhelm certain sewage treatment plants where storm sewers use the same pipes as the sewage system.

Rainwater will be used for “our hydroponics project — now growing lettuce — and plants that go in the soil outside,” said David Herr, a St. Joseph 10th-grader from Pittsburgh. “And rainwater doesn't have added chemicals,” he said.

“It also links school with what we like,” said 10th-grader Ryley Danielson of Harrison.

In Springdale, arts therapy classes will decorate and student enrichment classes will use rain barrels at Springdale Junior-Senior High School, Principal Jennifer Vecchio said.

“They will also be used for our outdoor classroom,” she said. “The water will be used for the garden. Some students will also test the quality of the water.”

Other participating Alle-Kiski schools

In Tarentum, Grandview Upper Elementary School third-graders were scheduled to paint two barrels on Earth Day.

Students will use the rainwater for flowers that some classes will plant, said teacher Lauralee Milberger, who said she knows Rosenberger.

Milberger hopes the program will cause students to consider becoming scientists.

“Who knows what they can do?” she asked. “Megan was just a little bit older than these students when she took part in the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. We have a science fair on May 4 and we are encouraging parents to help.”

Milberger said she has talked with teachers in other local districts.

“Many say they want to be part of ‘Barrels' next year,” she said.Cheswick Christian Academy also is participating in the “Barrels” program at the school.

It's also adding “Barrels” to water plants at a New Kensington community garden cared for by Sonward Youth Programs' after-school program. Sonward is a nondenominational program for children from Arnold and New Kensington that has been running for five years.

Director Kim Louis said the program employs Cheswick Academy and Valley High School students, like Cheswick's Bethany Kosor, to help younger students.

On Thursday, a half-dozen students painted a barrel that will be used to water Sonward's community garden, now in its second year, and show a practical and educational use.

Knora Underwood, 8, was painting a “rainbow flower.” Standing nearby, Rowan McDade, 9, cheerfully said the barrel “will give us water for our garden.”

Madison Bryant, 7, said she likes the barrel “because it says ‘green.' ”

Louis talked with them about water conservation.

From Annapolis, Rosenberger said she is happy that the Western Pennsylvania project is under way.

“The teachers we work with are passionate to share this program with their students, and we have seen students excited to take part in the pro-ject,” Rosenberger said. “We are proud of the students' work to beautify and preserve the Allegheny County region, and we are looking forward to engaging more students in the coming years through our programs.”

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711 or at [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.