Harrison native brings rain barrels full of educational potential to Western Pa.
A teaching idea using rain barrels is flowing from the Chesapeake Bay into this region, thanks to a Harrison family.
Harrison native Megan Rosenberger, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, started Barrels by the Bay last year.
“Barrels” encouraged environmental education and understanding about water for about 2,000 students in about 100 Baltimore-area and Annapolis schools.
Now Rosenberger's project has more than 100 Western Pennsylvania schools participating.
Between now and Earth Day on April 22, area students will paint the white plastic barrels.
Ready for challenge
On a recent weekend, more than 100 area school representatives picked up one or two barrels, paint and teaching suggestions from Megan Rosenberger and her sister, Elizabeth, who is Barrels' executive director and a pharmacist in Annapolis.
Members of the St. Joseph High School farm club and art students have plans to paint two barrels and learn about the environment, said student Ethan Fontana.
Carlynton Junior-Senior High School Principal Mike Ludghren said the barrels he picked up would be decorated by art students and used for a community garden.
“The barrels will also be an introduction to biology for some students,” he said.
Cheswick Christian Academy art teacher Kim Lewis, who picked up two barrels, said students will have fun painting and learning about gardening.
Chartiers Valley teacher Colleen Mutschler said the barrels will be a teaching tool for students and be used with an elementary school garden.
How it started
While attending St. Joseph High in Harrison, Megan researched rain barrels and hydroelectricity.
She won a presidential environmental youth award and continues to teach others about the environment.
Now an international studies student at the Naval Academy, she plans to become a surface warfare officer.
Two factors influenced her efforts for environmental education: Hurricane Ivan and a high school field trip.
“I remember the hurricane in 2005 and its impact in the Valley,” Rosenberger said. “We toured Alcosan (the county's sewer authority) and learned about ways to prevent flooding and improve the environment. That started the process for me.
“You don't see a lot of rain barrels in Western Pennsylvania,” she added. “It's exciting to get back to the Pittsburgh area for this,” she said during an Easter vacation visit.
The nonprofit EarthEcho provides educational materials to Barrels by the Bay. It was established by Philippe and Alexandria Cousteau to honor their father, Philippe Cousteau Sr. and his father, legendary ocean explorer and environmentalist Jacques Cousteau.
“My grandfather told me the key to making a change in our world is to focus on the young people,” Philippe Cousteau Jr. told the Tribune-Review. “Megan Rosenberger is a terrific example.
“Young people like Megan are role models. Young people need people to look up to — not just musicians and rap stars and athletes.”
Coca-Cola donated the barrels, which held Coke syrup, said spokeswoman Jennifer Richmond.
The company has a goal by 2020 to “safely return to communities and nature an amount of water equal to what it uses in finished beverages and production,” Richmond said.
PPG Industries donated cash to Barrels by the Bay and for the Pittsburgh area project, said PPG spokeswoman Sue Sloan.
Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711 or [email protected].