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Ohio Northern graduate inspires students to collect water in style

By Lisa Knodel, Contributing Writer for the Dayton Daily News
April—Students in Meggie (Schmidt) Bierkan’s art classes are promoting water conservation and erosion and flooding prevention in style.

Meggie (BFA/graphic design, ’09) and her students at Lebanon Junior High School and were selected to paint seven rain barrels for the Regional Storm Water Collaborative’s Rain Barrel Art Project.

The second annual Rain Barrel Art Project is hosted by the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

“The Rain Barrel Art Project desires to educate people on environmental issues like storm water runoff, watersheds and water conservation,” said John Nelson, spokesman from the project. “Rain barrels collect rain water from your roof and temporarily store the water for use. Rainwater is ideal for watering your garden, lawn and trees. Rain barrels not only reduce storm water runoff but also save homeowners money on their bills.”

“I participated in the rain barrel project last year and wanted to expand the awareness of water conservation to as many people as possible. One way I could increase exposure to the project is to share this experience with my students,” Meggie said.

Meggie said the community-focused art project reinforces her classroom lessons.

“The rain barrel project is a community-based art project, allowing students to have an opportunity to get involved beyond the walls of the classroom,” she explained.

The completed barrels will be displayed at Cincinnati Zoo’s Go Green Garden throughout April.

“The zoo is thrilled to be hosting the rain barrel event once again. As the ‘Greenest Zoo in America,’ we are always looking for ways to inspire our community to take action that can impact the environment in positive ways,” said Sophia Cifuentes, Sustainability Coordinator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Lebanon students’ barrels feature a trip to the zoo, swimming fish, The Lorax, a small family of polar bears, planet earth, a rainy day in paradise and geometric raindrops.

The barrels will be auctioned April 24 to raise money for conservation education in the Ohio River Valley.

Nelson said the Rain Barrel Art Project was created to promote the use of rain barrels throughout the Ohio River Valley area via an entertaining yet educational medium.

Amy Pond, Education and Marketing Specialist with the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District, said the simple installation of rain barrels can have a huge impact.

“Here in Ohio we are water rich, so much so we tend to pipe it away from us as fast as we can. With the increase of the housing development, we have created so many new surfaces that can’t soak up water. This in return overloads our streams, creates erosion, flooding and pollution,” she explained

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Meggie earned her BFA degree in graphic design from Ohio Northern in 2009. While a student at ONU, she earned a Petrillo award, was involved in Delta Zeta, the Arts & Sciences College Student Advisory Board, and served as co-president of the ONU student chapter of AIGA|The Professional Association for Design. In 2012 she completed a Master of Art in Visual Art Education from the University of Cincinnati. Meggie currently is an art teacher at Lebanon Junior High School located near Cincinnati, Ohio. She teaches a variety of courses including beginning art classes, mixed media, three-dimensional art, digital photography, painting and drawing. 

Founded in 1871, Ohio Northern University is a competitive, comprehensive university affiliated with the United Methodist church. ONU is one of the few private universities to offer a distinctive blend of nationally ranked liberal arts and professional programs in its five colleges.

Originally designated as the School of Fine Arts and later the College of Fine Arts, the art & design program was first established as an independent academic unit at Ohio Northern in 1878, largely as an outgrowth of course work in engineering and architectural drawing. Today, Ohio Northern offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts with concentrations in two-dimensional, three-dimensional and pre-art therapy. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education, AIGA: The Professional Association for Design, and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is recognized in the second and third editions of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design or the University’s 2013–14 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.

image: Lebanon Junior High School art students painted a rain barrel for the Regional Storm Water Collaborative’s Rain Barrel Art Project, which educates people on environmental issues like storm water runoff, watersheds and water conservation.