This year April showers brought more than just May flowers; they also provided a fun learning opportunity for students in the Arlington Public Schools.
Operation Rain Barrel, a partnership among Mason’s Arlington Campus and Office of Sustainability and the Arlington Public School system, offered an opportunity “to engage students in learning about sustainability in a creative way,” says Toni Andrews, associate director of community relations in Arlington.
Rain barrels catch and hold rainwater, which can then be used for gardening and cleaning while reducing water consumption and protecting local water sources from depletion and contamination.
The Office of Sustainability  and Community Relations  provided 20 plain rain barrels to participating schools. The students then designed and painted the barrels. Completed barrels were returned to the Arlington Campus for display at the Founders Hall art gallery  and judging.
The top three entries each won $100, provided by Water Management Inc. The schools that produced the winners were Arlington Mill Continuation Program, Campbell Elementary School, and Kenmore Middle School.
The barrels were then sold in a silent auction at the Earth Week Community Fair on Sunday, April 22. The proceeds benefit the Arlington County Council of PTAs Scholarship Fund and Mason’s Early Identification Program , which targets and assists promising middle and high school students who would be the first in their family to attend college.
At the Earth Day celebration, approximately 200 visitors eagerly submitted their bids for the rain barrels. Nearly $2,000 was raised and will be divided between the two supporting organizations.
“Operation Rain Barrel was a tremendous success!” says Andrews. “We could not be more delighted with the enthusiasm put forth by the parents, teachers, and students in their amazing creations. We definitely plan to make Operation Rain Barrel a regular feature of Mason’s Arlington Community Earth Week Fair.”
–Erin Cushing and Clinton Dorsey