Our eCYBERMISSION team: the Cybermaniacs (Henry Naughton, Sonith Sunku, Sohan Kosuru, and Jay Rachakonda) was formed in 2016 when we were sixth graders from Navy Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia. We are now seventh graders at nearby Rachel Carson Middle School, and are continuing our eCYBERMISSION work: studying the growing problem of impervious surfaces in our modern world, which includes our own backyards and schools.
Every time it rained at Navy Elementary, there was standing water for the next few days, preventing students from going out at recess. We focused our mission folder and grant on how we could help the earth breathe again, and determined solutions at a local level for our schoolyard.
Originally, our plan focused on solutions for our school field and playground, but after further research, we decided to narrow our focus to only the playground. This decision was based on the following factors: (1) cost: to make both the field and playground pervious, the cost more than doubled, rather than just focusing on the playground. (2) Need: this September (2016), we visited the schoolyard during a heavy rainstorm and observed more standing water on the playground compared to any other area of the schoolyard. (3) Outside variable: the PTO is researching a possible track for the field, and we did not want to do any work in an area that was under possible construction and development.
eCYBERMISSION granted our team $4,200.00 to make our schoolyard more permeable. Currently our plan for the playground includes: (1) Planting mature switchgrass at the front of the playground where the largest puddles exist, and the ground is most compacted to help prevent runoff. (2) Building up the border (3-by-6 feet) around the switchgrass and possible enclosure with a rope fence to prevent student traffic. (3) Widening the entrance to the playground with either porous asphalt or pervious pavers to direct and allow student traffic of up to 120 students entering the playground. (4) Laying sod on either side of the school doorway where ground is currently compacted dirt. (5) Creating a swale into one nearby drain to allow water to flow more successfully. (6) Placing an underground pipe under a row of swings to determine if this helps water flow more efficiently into a nearby storm drain. (7) Conducting further research on crum rubber and geotextile to see if they can be utilized as part of our plan. Our hope is that this plan moves students and redirects their traffic to minimize compaction, and also move water so it infiltrates into the ground and nearby drains.
We have met with a Soil Scientist, Urban Conservation Specialist, and Urban Conservation Engineer from Northern Virginia Water, and Soil Conservation District (NVWSCD) and a landscaper to discuss our plan. Our next steps are to come up with specific information to review with them, and present this information, including cost, to Navy Elementary’s principal.