Educating and Inspiring Students Through Interpretive Signs

Collaboration between La Crosse Urban Stormwater Group’s Soak it Up! Project and staff at Northern Hills Elementary School in Onalaska has led to a new learning opportunity for students and the community.

At the request of Northern Hills faculty and in collaboration with students, The Soak it Up! Project designed, produced and installed an educational sign in an existing rain garden at the school. Crystal Brunel, Northern Hills Library Media Specialist, initiated the project, which exposes students to the value and function of rain gardens, native plants and pollinators.

Brunel’s simple curiosity about how to incorporate environmental activities in daily lessons led to the collaboration, which now exposes hundreds of students to rain gardens, food plots and pollinator patches at Northern Hills. Students researched and wrote grants, constructed garden beds, planted native and edible plants and are maintaining the gardens, with activities drawn from a localized curriculum designed by Brunel. “I saw the rain gardens were not being maintained,” said Brunel, “and I knew this could be an opportunity to start making changes in my curriculum, using the school grounds.”

“We wanted signage out there so all staff would feel comfortable using garden areas in their instruction,” continues Brunel. “When they don’t know what they’re looking at, it’s hard to encourage them to put the gardens to use.”