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Alle-Kiski schools participate in Barrels for the Bay program

Chuck Biedka
| Friday, April 22, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Kimora Underwood, 8, paints a flower on a rain barrel as Madison Bryant, 7, both of New Kensington, looks on at Sonward Youth Programs in New Kensington on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Re
Kimora Underwood, 8, paints a flower on a rain barrel as Madison Bryant, 7, both of New Kensington, looks on at Sonward Youth Programs in New Kensington on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
St. Joseph High School 12th-graders Corinne Kurpakus, left, and Jeana Luciana paint a farm scene on a rain barrel at the Harrison school on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Eric Felack | Tribune-Review
St. Joseph High School 12th-graders Corinne Kurpakus, left, and Jeana Luciana paint a farm scene on a rain barrel at the Harrison school on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Abby Louis, 9, of New Kensington, waters the plants for their greenhouse at Sonward Youth Programs in New Kensington on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Re
Abby Louis, 9, of New Kensington, waters the plants for their greenhouse at Sonward Youth Programs in New Kensington on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
St. Joseph High School 12th-grader Bobby Piskor paints the sky around a farm scene on a rain barrel at the Harrison school on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Eric Felack | Tribune-Review
St. Joseph High School 12th-grader Bobby Piskor paints the sky around a farm scene on a rain barrel at the Harrison school on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Camille Dixon, 9, of New Kensington, paints a flower on a rain barrel at Sonward Youth Programs in New Kensington on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Re
Camille Dixon, 9, of New Kensington, paints a flower on a rain barrel at Sonward Youth Programs in New Kensington on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
St. Joseph High School 10th-grader Ethan Fontana examines hydroponic lettuce that was grown at the Harrison school on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Eric Felack | Tribune-Review
St. Joseph High School 10th-grader Ethan Fontana examines hydroponic lettuce that was grown at the Harrison school on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Kimora Underwood, 8, Camille Dixon, 9, and Madison Bryant, 7, all of New Kensington, paint flowers on a rain barrel at Sonward Youth Programs in New Kensington on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Re
Kimora Underwood, 8, Camille Dixon, 9, and Madison Bryant, 7, all of New Kensington, paint flowers on a rain barrel at Sonward Youth Programs in New Kensington on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Decorated planters for the greenhouse are displayed at Sonward Youth Programs in New Kensington on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Re
Decorated planters for the greenhouse are displayed at Sonward Youth Programs in New Kensington on Thursday, April 21, 2016.

Barrels for the Bay is starting at almost 100 area schools, among them St. Joseph High School in Harrison and an after-school program in New Kensington.

The locally-inspired water quality program is expanding here in time for Earth Day weekend. Friday was Earth Day.

Ethan Fontana,of Lower Burrell is among those who are delighted.

Last month Fontana, a 10th-grader at St. Joseph High School, obtained a rain barrel from Harrison native and St. Joseph graduate Megan Rosenberger, now a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Rosenberger started Barrels by the Bay to teach about water quality and the environment. She started “Barrels” last year in 100 Baltimore and Annapolis-area schools. The “Bay” refers to the Chesapeake Bay, but the concept is universal.

Now, Rosenberger has introduced the program to Western Pennsylvania. She returned to the Alle-Kiski Valley on March 26 for the barrel distribution.

In honor of Earth Day, students this week at St. Joseph's and almost 100 other schools are using imagination and paint to decorate the barrels, which were donated by a soft drink manufacturer.

Teachers are refining lesson plans to accommodate the effort.

At St. Joseph, art students are painting a barrel for the new farm club, of which Fontana is president. The art features an appealing barn and sunflowers.

“Look at how much rainwater won't become stormwater,” Fontana said.

According to the state Department of Natural Resources, two 55-gallon barrels can collect about 110 gallons of water that otherwise would become runoff. Excessive runoff can cause erosion, inundate stormwater sewers or overwhelm certain sewage treatment plants where storm sewers use the same pipes as the sewage system.

Rainwater will be used for “our hydroponics project — now growing lettuce — and plants that go in the soil outside,” said David Herr, a St. Joseph 10th-grader from Pittsburgh. “And rainwater doesn't have added chemicals,” he said.

“It also links school with what we like,” said 10th-grader Ryley Danielson of Harrison.

In Springdale, arts therapy classes will decorate and student enrichment classes will use rain barrels at Springdale Junior-Senior High School, Principal Jennifer Vecchio said.

“They will also be used for our outdoor classroom,” she said. “The water will be used for the garden. Some students will also test the quality of the water.”

Other participating Alle-Kiski schools

In Tarentum, Grandview Upper Elementary School third-graders were scheduled to paint two barrels on Earth Day.

Students will use the rainwater for flowers that some classes will plant, said teacher Lauralee Milberger, who said she knows Rosenberger.

Milberger hopes the program will cause students to consider becoming scientists.

“Who knows what they can do?” she asked. “Megan was just a little bit older than these students when she took part in the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. We have a science fair on May 4 and we are encouraging parents to help.”

Milberger said she has talked with teachers in other local districts.

“Many say they want to be part of ‘Barrels' next year,” she said.Cheswick Christian Academy also is participating in the “Barrels” program at the school.

It's also adding “Barrels” to water plants at a New Kensington community garden cared for by Sonward Youth Programs' after-school program. Sonward is a nondenominational program for children from Arnold and New Kensington that has been running for five years.

Director Kim Louis said the program employs Cheswick Academy and Valley High School students, like Cheswick's Bethany Kosor, to help younger students.

On Thursday, a half-dozen students painted a barrel that will be used to water Sonward's community garden, now in its second year, and show a practical and educational use.

Knora Underwood, 8, was painting a “rainbow flower.” Standing nearby, Rowan McDade, 9, cheerfully said the barrel “will give us water for our garden.”

Madison Bryant, 7, said she likes the barrel “because it says ‘green.' ”

Louis talked with them about water conservation.

From Annapolis, Rosenberger said she is happy that the Western Pennsylvania project is under way.

“The teachers we work with are passionate to share this program with their students, and we have seen students excited to take part in the pro-ject,” Rosenberger said. “We are proud of the students' work to beautify and preserve the Allegheny County region, and we are looking forward to engaging more students in the coming years through our programs.”

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711 or at cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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