Binford Middle School
When students come to Binford Middle School, they walk across an entrance made of permeable pavement, thanks to Binford’s Green School Initiative.
The initiative, funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Chesapeake Stewardship Fund, is a collaborative effort between the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and its partners to to determine what type of stormwater best management practices (BMPs) were practical for installing on a 103 year old historical school building. Binford Middle School’s Principal Rickey worked with the Alliance and Richmond Public Schools (RPS) Facilities to choose which BMPs were feasible to install and would have the most impact. The final choices were: permeable pavement for the entrance, conservation landscaping in front beds, and a rainwater harvesting system for the northwest corner.
Last spring, during a grade level planning meeting, Riverwise Schools Coordinator Meredeth Dash mentioned the idea of a rainwater harvesting system that would capture roof runoff AND double as an art sculpture for a music and arts focused school. Art teacher, Kirstie Sadler, was also at that planning meeting and connected the Alliance with well-known sculptor, Paul Dispasquale, who recommended Matt Lively, a native Richmond artist.
Students and art classes were invited to participate in an art contest to design this rainwater harvesting system. The designs were reviewed, and the winning idea was used as inspiration for the final design. The design is a series of five troughs that slowly drain rainwater into the garden bed below. The troughs stand on skinny legs and have clouds attached to the front. When viewed from Floyd Avenue, a popular through-fare in Richmond, the sculpture appears like a cartoon squall. When not raining, teachers can still activate the system for demonstrations with a garden hose. It is the perfect combination of science, art, and environmental education.
Besides a permeable pavement entrance, and a rainwater harvesting system, Binford has two unique labyrinth walking paths made with Virginia native plants. The idea of the labyrinth was conceived by Scotty Dilworth who also chose the native plants. Ms. Dilworth was one of 2018’s recipients of the Alliance’s Watershed Champion award and has worked with the Alliance for several years. Her landscape design work can also be viewed on the northeast side of the school where she installed a rain garden.
The entire 3-year project embodied teamwork and collaboration. All work done at Binford is custom-designed and functional, making it the largest green infrastructure project in RPS. Beyond being recognized as a RiverWise School, Binford also is part of the Turnaround Arts program in which professional artists adopt schools to help facilitate and enhance arts education. In Binford’s case, that artist is Jason Mraz, who grew up in Richmond, VA participating in the performing arts. In the 2nd year of the project, Mr. Mraz helped plant a Cherokee Dogwood tree.
The Alliance plans to use Binford as a model example of how other schools can use green infrastructure to improve and update the look of their school, but even more importantly, prevent pollution from entering our local waterways. In the Fan District of Richmond, where Binford is located, community is important to its residents and to the school. The Alliance will continue to build the feeling of community, and will use Binford to connect the next generation of environmental stewards to the community and the James River, only one mile away.
Rain Harvesting Sculpture – Creation and Installation
“This has been a phenomenal collaboration. Each science lesson is standards-based, authentic, and engaging. The students are working on a project that is deeply meaningful to them and each day they walk on a reminder of the changes that they can make to help protect our environment.” – Melissa Rickey, principal of Binford Middle School.
“The Binford project is the perfect marriage of science, art, and environmental education. Binford’s Green Infrastructure Initiative benefits the entire community. There is new landscaping and public art for all to enjoy, and it doubles in purpose as it improves water quality in our local streams and the James River. All work done at Binford is custom-designed and functional, making it a great model for green infrastructure projects in Richmond Public Schools.” – Meredeth Dash, Riverwise Schools Coordinator.
“Working with the Alliance has been a unique experience because it allowed us to affect a meaningful change in the community with our work.” – Tim Harper, local Richmond artist