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David Pendered

A science project on rain water to teach lessons all year at elementary school near Georgia Dome

By David Pendered

It may not seem like much, just a group of elementary school kids doing a science project on a bright morning in early autumn.

Rain barrels with preparations

Students gather around a table filled with supplies to decorate the rain barrels for a science project at Atlanta’s Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School. Credit: City of Atlanta

But someday, the event will take on greater meaning than it may have had for the pupils today. Someday, these youngsters at Atlanta’s Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary will recall the time when adults wearing uniforms helped them paint rain barrels, and how those barrels became the focus of a year-long project for each of them and their classmates.

The rain barrels will be used to teach about managing water resources. Given that their generation will hear a lot about water management, Thursday’s event was a pleasant way for these youngsters to get started.

The students painted rain barrels with a variety of decorations. They started Thursday with six barrels, and within the next three months they are to have decorated 22 barrels that will be placed around the school, which is located across Northside Drive from the Georgia Dome.

The barrels will be used to collect storm water during the school year. Teachers are to come up with a variety of lessons that will show the students many of the ways that rain water can be used for every day needs.

There should be plenty of examples from which to choose.

Just last month, at Atlanta City Hall, a group that advocates better use of water resources talked about how a rainwater harvesting program could produce more than 20 million gallons of water a day – or about 16 percent of metro Atlanta’s daily consumption.

Rain barrels, with Councilmember Bond

Atlanta Councilmember Michael Julian Bond gave his support to the class science project at Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School. Credit: City of Atlanta

Atlanta’s water consumption is in the news in Florida today. Fishermen down around the once-fertile oyster beds in Apalachicola Bay are blaming low flows from the Chattahoochee River – Atlanta’s primary water sources – for contributing to the scarce supply of oysters in the bay.

And over at Georgia’s Capitol, the governor and state leaders are moving forward with the plan to build reservoirs to meet the state’s future water needs, with part of the money coming from low interest bonds issued by the state.

Those topics are farther down the road for the children at Bethune. Right now, they simply got the chance to be outside on a pretty day and enjoy the fun of painting rain barrels.

The adults who helped decorate the barrels came from the city’s Department of Corrections’ VIPER Team, a fast-response team that has adopted Bethune Elementary. The mayor’s Office of Sustainability also helped with the painting project.

Several other organizations also helped with the event – the U.S. Green Building Council of Georgia, Ernst & Young,, Coca-Cola and The Home Depot. Class projects evidently require a lot of support.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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