DaVinci Water Garden Model Project
Portland, OR          Gallery

The DaVinci Living Water Garden project began in Spring of 2000 and is a collaboration between DaVinci Arts Middle School and Urban Water Works, a non-profit organization. The goal of the project is to educate students and citizens about stormwater runoff and water quality, while also using the arts to celebrate the aesthetic properties of water. Our hope is that the students involved will forever be aware of the preciousness of water, its role in supporting our ecosystems and our society and their own ability to improve water quality, so that they will be life-long stewards of this essential resource.

The project reroutes stormwater runoff from 15,000 sq. ft. of roof and parking lot, into a 7,200 square foot water garden, and was designed and built by the students, teachers and parents of this school. Built on the site of an abandoned tennis court, includes a system of cisterns, pond, constructed wetland, and bioremediation swale that collects, cleans and absorbs 100% of the water that it captures. This garden reduces runoff entering the Willamette River 1 mile away; provides recreational and educational opportunities for the school and surrounding community; and provides a model for stormwater diversion that could be implemented by average households.

In the next few years, additional elements will be added and students and community will continue to use it as living laboratory, performance space and inspirational garden.

Here are some of the components.
    A rainwater cistern that holds water collected from nearby classroom roofs and parking lot.
    "Living Machine" that use plants and small organisms to clean water.
    Flow forms and sculptures that educate about the natural flow of water.
    Ponds that provide treatment of stormwater.
    A shelter and amphitheater to be used by students and the community.
    An amphitheater area for the creation and display of student art work.

Where is it located?
Behind the school, in an abandoned tennis court. DaVinci Arts Middle School is at 2508 NE Everett, Portland, OR

Who designed it?
The students at DaVinci, working with lead teacher Dan Evans and other teachers, studied water through a one year curriculum and held a community design charrette in June 2001. During school year 2001-02, they refined the design and started construction. They had help from volunteer ecological designers, landscape architects, hydrologists, civil engineers.

What will the environmental impact be?
The most profound impact is the significant reduction in stormwater runoff from this site. Allowing that water to percolate into the ground at the school brings positive results to the local water table, while supplying more than adequate water to support the plants in the 7,200 square foot garden. Surface water in the garden will provide habitat for beneficial insects and support a greater diversity of plant and wildlife. The garden itself is a huge asset for the school, providing living laboratory and educational opportunities, recreational opportunities and a much needed green space for the surrounding neighbor. The process of building the garden has created a network of relationships between students and parents; students and outside professionals; between school and neighborhood; and school and city/region. The students who have participated have a greater understanding of their role in saving or destroying our planet, and the empowering experience of transforming their immediate environment in a lasting, beneficial way. Finally, this garden is a simple, understandable model of sustainable methods for cleaning and reusing harvested rainwater, that can be reproduced by businesses and homeowners alike for a reasonable amount of time and money.

Who participated and how was it funded?
Urban Water Works, a Portland non profit, approached Da Vinci School with an invitation to create a project around the study and stewardship of water. During this 3 year project Urban Water Works has provided technical and project management support to the school. Grants written by Urban Water Works, came from The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Metro Regional Government, Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, Portland's Office of Sustainable Development and private donations.

Dan Evans, one of two science teachers at DaVinci, was the lead teacher. In Year 1 he devoted the entire years curriculum to exploring all aspects of water, including environmental problems and solutions about water in Portland. In Year 2 he ran an afterschool club for students and parents to design the elements of the garden. In year 3 he and his students, along with other students at the school built and planted the finished garden.

Urban Water Works recruited technical support from their Advisory Board, professionals working in Portland and in other parts of the United States. Landscape architects, hydrologists, engineers, artists, architects and native plant specialists assisted students in exploring, designing and building the garden, and provided water analysis, drawings, grading and planting plans. Once building began in summer 2002, many local businesses provided services for free or at reduced rates including: concrete removal, grading, rock and topsoil, native plants, flowforms, pond liner, and downspout retrofitting. Parents, teachers and community members assisted by shoveling soil, moving rocks, and planting plants. Ongoing maintenance and stewardship of the garden will be managed by a volunteer group made up of students, parents, teachers, and community members.