Marin Waldorf School Organic Garden

In 2008, Marin Waldorf School embarked on a plan to develop their school garden into a sustainability demonstration site for 180 K-8th grade students in Lucas Valley. Waldorf pedagogy has always promoted organic living, the use of natural products, respect for the land, and knowledge of seasonal change. These values, reflected in the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (the founder of Waldorf Schools) have always been implicit in Waldorf education since its inception last century. But, with climate change emerging as a life force in the future of our children, Marin Waldorf School wanted to make sustainability an explicit part of Waldorf eduction. Using their school garden as a demonstration site for some of the emerging technologies seemed a good way to blend the implicit with the explicit.

The school's initial focus was to concentrate on alternative energy, water conservation and biodynamic farming (a hallmark of Waldorf education). In 2009, parents at the school attended a local conference on Greening Your School and were introduced to the local non-profit SPAWN. Through this contact they learned about SPAWN's grant program then offering rainwater harvesting tanks to local residents and schools. They applied and were thrilled to win a 3,000 gallon tank.

"Thank you, SPAWN, for making a significant contribution to our school's sustainability program!"    
 -Patrick Gannon, Marin Waldorf parent

Acting quickly before a series of impending storms, a group of parents on the school's Green Team built a platform, rolled the tank into place and connected the tank to a 20 foot gutter on the school's new library building. Two days later, the rains came and after a two-week period of consistent rain, the 3,000 gallon tank was full!

Talk about a "teachable moment!" The students, faculty and parents were amazed that a tank this size could be filled so quickly from such a small portion of the roof. The buzz it generated was palpable and everyone agreed it demonstrated the value of rainwater harvesting. Having a site gauge with a little red ball showing the rising water level in the tank created excitement and interest. By connecting a simple garden hose to the tank, students now water plants and top off the pond, while making a connection between a natural event being put to a practical use. This awareness has led to other discussions of how runoff from large storms can do damage to our streams and create sediment that affects fish life. Parents have begun thinking of installing tanks at their homes and have agreed that with the threat of water rationing before us, harvesting rainwater makes enormous sense.