Situated in a cozy spot on the south side of the Grayslake Public Library parking lot, tucked beside the dumpster pens, right along the bike path you’ll find a small garden with plants almost perfectly spaced and absolutely weed-free.
This is the hard work of 13-year-old Brian Mace of Grayslake.
Mace planned, planted and cares for this rain garden as his 7th grade service learning project for Prairie Crossing Charter School.
“I wanted something outdoorsy. I think at this point it's turning out pretty good,” Mace says.
He came up with the idea almost a year ago. The requirements for the project included something that would impact the environment, society and him personally. Mace says the more he started thinking about the rain garden, the more he wanted to do it.
The rain garden is built on a slight slope and serves as a filtration system for rain water and air. Specific plants are chosen according to climate, sun/shade areas, water-need and root stability. The garden can potentially improve water quality and filter rainwater runoff pollution.
Mace says he’s put in at least 12 hours of work between presenting the project to the library board to meeting with the library director, working with a local gardener to find the perfect plants and perfect area and doing the physical work of gardening.
“He did so well,” says library director Roberta Thomas. “He knew his plants, he knew the steps he had to take and the order he had to go in. He was very well organized and very flexible to work with.”
But perfect planning doesn’t always translate to a seamless execution. Mid-way through the planning process Mace came down with the whooping cough, putting his plans on hold for three months. Then, when the rain garden started to progress again in the spring, he hit another small snag.
“I thought we could plant it in a certain area behind the library but that wouldn’t work because of the slope and the cement.” Mace says.
He eventually found the perfect area, but realized it wasn’t perfect soil.
“I think you actually learn something from struggling,” says Brian’s mom, Roseann, referring to the clay-like soil. “He got here and he realized he needed to put some top soil or the plants wouldn’t survive. It was another change of plans.”
Brian adds, “I tried to plant one plant with a small shovel and realized that didn’t work out so well.” Mace says he spent five hours doing the physical labor of digging the holes and planting some 40 plants in the area.
The library pulled the sod and did the roto-tilling on the 40’ section of land. Mace provided the plants, along with all additional labor.
“His idea was pretty big compared to what actually transpired,” says Brian’s mom Roseann. However she feels he learned some valuable lessons.
“I’m kind of surprised. It took a lot of work just to get the OK from the library board and I had to go to them to propose the idea. I had to do a lot of meetings before we got to plant. It has taken a while,” Mace says.
Thomas says they are looking forward to enjoying the flowers that will bloom soon from Mace’s rain garden, adding that it is “a good thing for the school, the library and the environment.”
“He is such a neat kid," Thomas said. "He deserves all the credit he can get."