Training & Rain Gardens on the Horizon

Off the Grid now has two grant proposals pending with the Milwaukee River Basin Partnership ( and we should hear if they are awarded or not in January. Below is a brief description of each project proposal:


In an effort to make a lasting impact on the Milwaukee River watershed by reducing the amount of water allowed to enter the sewer system, the Sustainable Urban Living Training will focus on rainwater collection and wastewater purification. At least two projects outlined below will be completed during the training at either the households of Off the Grid members or at a community garden within the neighborhood:

  • Creating rainwater collection systems out of reused and found material
  • Expanding rainwater storage capacity by networking barrels
  • Designing rain barrels out of reused materials
  • Plumbing houses for greywater purification
  • Constructing wetlands to filter greywater
  • Constructing passive pond systems
  • Building pond islands out of reused material to purify water
  • Building intensive recirculation systems for purification

The training will be led by Scott Kellogg from the Rhizome Collective and will be based off of the RUST trainings which Scott developed and currently leads in Austin, TX and Albany, NY. The training will have the capacity for twenty participants and will be held in either Milwaukee’s Riverwest or Harambee neighborhoods in the spring of 2009. To encourage resident participation and accessibility, the training will be free to participants. Lastly, the Sustainable Urban Living Training will consist of 20-hours of hands-on experience and information sharing beginning on Friday and ending Sunday evening.


From design to barrel installation, Off the Grid will partner with students in K4 and seventh grade at O.W. Holmes School to create three rain gardens on vacant lots to absorb rainwater from adjacent houses. Rain barrels will also be used in conjunction with the rain garden for watering plants in other parts of the garden.

turtle1Students at O.W. Holmes will engage in the planning and installation or three rain gardens. The project will include classroom components where students will learn about rain gardens and the water issues which the gardens help to alleviate. Part of the curricula for the students will also be seeking ways to involve the larger community, specifically family, friends and the immediate neighbors. The curricula will be based off of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wisconsin Rain Garden Educator’s Kit: The kit offers tools to help educators spread the word about rain gardens, storm water runoff and the links to better water quality and contains a CD with three PowerPoint presentations and a digital photo library with photos and figures in both .jpeg and .tiff format. It also contains several case studies of rain garden installations from around the state, potential speaker contacts, internet web links, newspaper stories, sample workshop materials, and hard copies of rain garden publications.

Outside of the classroom, students will have the opportunity to get their hands dirty and help with the construction of the rain gardens and rain barrel installation. The actual digging, planting and barrel installation will be done in a way to encourage involvement from many people. It will be a joyous occasion with snacks and shovels! The various stages will be articulated and everyone will be encouraged to learn and teach.


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