Local stormwater problem solved with the help of Michigan high school students

Areas of the city of Au Gres, Michigan, which sits along the Au Gres River, are prone to flooding during major rainstorms. The city’s Riverside Park was particularly problematic. Standing stormwater resulted in safety and accessibility concerns, while improper drainage allowed contaminants to directly run into the river system. When it came to doing something about this problem, it was Au Gres-Sims High School students who decided to take action.

A person wearing a mask kneels on the ground and digs in the soil with his hands to plant a plant.

A volunteer helps to maintain native plants in a bioswale in Au Gres, Michigan. (Image credit: Au Gres-Sims School District)

With guidance and grant-writing assistance from Michigan Sea Grant offsite link, the students wrote a grant to the state of Michigan requesting funding to install a native plant bioswale at Riverside Park. Their project was funded, and so students got to work identifying native plants and planning the 600-square foot bioswale. As part of the process, the students conducted public meetings to learn about what the community wanted to see in the park. After considering all of this information, in the fall of 2020, the students worked with local partners such as Huron Pines to install the bioswale. 

“Place-based education makes students responsible for the communities they live in,” said Au Gres-Sims High School teacher Luke Freeman. Students immediately saw improvements as the amount of standing water after rainstorms decreased. They have continued to monitor and improve the bioswale during the 2021-2022 school year, even replanting native plants after a drought in summer 2021. The students and community are thrilled with the results of the project, and the students gained a tremendous amount of experience.