Philadelphia — Local high school students installed a rainwater management garden on the grounds of W.B. Saul High School as part of an innovative STEM education partnership between CH2M and The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works Everywhere program. For the last year, students at the agricultural high school, located near Fairmount Park, have designed the project with the guidance of Julie Ulrich, urban conservation director for The Nature Conservancy; Andrew Potts and Susan Beck, water resources engineers at CH2M; and local landscape architect Hans Hesselein, of Apiary Studio.

“The W.B. Saul School is thrilled to be a part of this initiative and extend learning opportunities to students through the living laboratory of our campus,” said Tamera Conaway, principal of W.B. Saul High School.

“We are thrilled about the opportunity for CH2M engineering professionals and Conservancy scientists to pass their knowledge and passion on to students through mentorship in real-world green engineering projects,” said Ellen Sandberg, executive director of the CH2M Foundation and vice president of community investment.

“Philadelphia is known as a leader in managing water with natural solutions, and this project will contribute to citywide goals for more natural infrastructure, while providing students experience with emerging green jobs,” Ulrich said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 6 million Americans already work in careers classified as “green” – whether offering environmentally friendly goods and services, or doing business in a more sustainable way.

In December 2015, the CH2M Foundation awarded a grant to The Nature Conservancy to develop the STEM education pilot project at W.B. Saul High School’s campus in Philadelphia. The goal of the partnership is twofold:

  • to increase student interest in green STEM careers through access to mentors and project-based learning in the fields of science and engineering, and
  • to engage the school community around the value of green infrastructure solutions that create healthier urban environments such as the rain garden that students, teachers and volunteers installed Wednesday.

“We are mentoring young leaders in green STEM principles and increasing green infrastructure in urban Philadelphia by leveraging our scientific expertise alongside CH2M’s engineering and infrastructure capabilities. Through this partnership, we are working toward creating a world where people and nature thrive together today and into the future,” said Ulrich.

Last year the project was recognized by the US2020 STEM Mentoring Awards, a platform to celebrate and encourage exceptional work in the STEM mentoring field. The Award for Excellence in Public-Private Partnerships recognized the CH2M Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and W.B. Saul High School’s innovative, cross-sectoral approach to connecting students with talented science and engineering professionals and providing real-world STEM learning opportunities.

The mission of the Walter Biddle Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences, a diverse learning community, is to develop in students an understanding of and appreciation for the career and leadership opportunities that are available to them in the many fields of agriculture.  It is also our commitment to cultivate each student’s individual abilities to prepare him or her for a lifetime of productive academic, vocational, and civic endeavors.