Stencil Your Storm Drains

August 09, 2010 by Krissy

Do you ever think about what happens to a drop of rain that falls onto the ground? It may fall on your schoolyard and soak into the ground or it may land on your school parking lot or rooftop and travel down the street into a storm drain.

When rain falls on hard surfaces like blacktop and concrete it picks up any oil, chemicals, dirt and trash on the roadway. Now all this polluted water has to go somewhere, so it is funneled through gutters along the street and into storm drains. These drains lead directly into your local river and eventually the Bay, the water is not cleaned or filtered at all.

What can your school do to solve this pollution problem?
One action project your students can participate in is stenciling the storm drains around your school.  By stenciling your drains students will discover the links between our roadways and waterways and leave a reminder for others.

Here’s how you get started.
Step 1: Locate your storm drains.
Take your class outside and create a map showing the location of storm drains around your school.

Step 2: Determine your message.
Have your class brainstorm ideas for the message you want to put on your drains. Remember your message has to inform the public not to dump and what body of water the storm drain leads to.

Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing, “Don’t Dump, Drains to the Bay” “No Dumping, Drains Directly into Back Creek” “Chesapeake Bay Drainage” “Don’t Dump, Protect YOUR Water” “Drains to Fish Habitat”.

Step 3: Get permission from your county or city.
You usually have to get approval from the Department of Public Works to stencil your drains.  When you call the Department you will want to let them know the neighborhood you are stenciling in, the message you are painting and who is involved/leading in the project.

Step 4: Purchase supplies.
You will need the following items for your project:
- Your stencil (bought or homemade)
- CFC free spray paint (1 can = 6 drains)
- Masking tape
- Drop cloths
- Wire brushes
- Gloves and goggles  (borrow from your science class)
- Wet paint signs
- Old rags or towels
- Orange cones (for safety reasons)

Schedule a date for your class to stencil. Put up flyers around your school and community to let everyone know about your project. On painting day, set up orange cones around the storm drain you are stenciling.  Place the drop cloth in front of the drain to prevent any paint from getting into the drain.

Have your students scrape the area with wire brushes to remove any dirt from the concrete.  Then tape your stencil where you want your message displayed. Take the can of spray paint and spray the area with a back and forth motion, make sure you cover the entire area evenly.  Remove your stencil and tape your wet paint sign to the drain.  Clean up any spilled paint and repeat at your next drain.

Try to get some publicity for your school.  To do this contact a local reporter from your town’s paper or television station and ask them if they would be interested in writing an article about your school. Invite the reporter out the day you are painting to see your students hard at work.  These students did it, so you can too!

Additional Resources
Stormwater Lessons - Bay Backpack
Trash, Litter and Recycling Lessons - Bay Backpack]]>

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Cassy says:

We also do this at the Monterey Bay Aquarium with our students! Great to know that there is someone else taking action to prevent water pollution from land. Keep up the great work!

Mike Orgera says:

We are working to retrofit open storm grates with the Permapave technology so that gross pollutants stay above ground and only water filters through the grates.