Portland Public Schools
Portland, Oregon

Bridger School

Home of the Wildcats!

7910 SE Market | Portland, OR 97215
Phone: (503) 916-6336 | Fax: (503) 916-2612

Have You Seen Our Water Garden?

Update from the Water Garden Steward

It has been a wonderful school year in the Water Garden at Bridger. In the fall of 2013 Nature Club began on Late Opening Wednesdays. Students came to the garden and worked and played together. Club members and friends moved bark chips and compost, cleared out waterways, had scavenger hunts and painted garden flags. Portland Earth Art and Agriculture staff and Bridger Green Team consultants and educators, Aliesje King and Brooklyn Birchfield, learned how amazing the Water Garden is with the students from the kindergarten to the 8th grade who came and explored from 8:30-10:45am. The Green Team continued to grow through the spring, with students digging in the Water Garden, helping with the construction of the Garden-to-Cafeteria  Spiral Garden hill, and exploring the Green Spaces of our school with games and play. This program will continue in the 2014-15 school year.

Our Garden-to-Cafeteria program took seed in February, and herbs and salad found their way into the cafeteria by May. This spring students planted cilantro, kale, radishes, spinach, lettuces, chard, dill, potatoes, beets, calendula, cabbage, onion, broccoli and peas.

The 7th & 8th grade science students finished the creation of the permaculture-focused Fibonacci Spiral Garden in early April. Many other classes helped to fill, plant, or tend this new garden, which is full of plants to grow into Fall Harvests (and for families when they come to water this summer). Anything ready to harvest when school resumes will head to the cafeteria for all Bridger students to enjoy.

Our 14 class Garden-to-Classroom program took shape in late spring of this year. By this time the students were used to the Garden Time routine and had a great time learning, adventuring, and working in the Garden. During their 30 minute sessions in the gardens they learned about the plants, functions, parts and soil of the Water Garden, participated in Service Learning through mulch and soil moving, moved compost, and re-routed the various channels of the Water Garden. In addition to working in the Water Garden, students spent time writing and sharing about their natural experiences, sorting and planting seeds, weeding around the school, transplanting, and tasting various herbs, flowers and greens.


The Bridger Water Garden project began in the Winter of 2003 and is a collaboration between Bridger School and Urban Water Works, a former non-profit organization. The goal of the project is to educate students and community members about storm water runoff and water quality, while also using the arts to celebrate the aesthetic properties of water.

Our hope is that the students involved in this project will forever be aware of the preciousness of water, its role in supporting our ecosystems and our society. Students learn how they can improve water quality; therefore, ensuring their stewardship of this essential resource.

Students interact with the space during recess as well as during classroom assignments.

The project reroutes storm water runoff from 13,000 sq. ft. of roof, into a 12,120 square foot water garden, and was designed and built by the students, teachers and parents of this school. This former asphalt courtyard, now includes a system of seasonal creeks, a pond, infiltrated basins, and a vegetated swale that collects, cleans and absorbs 100 percent of the water that it captures from all seven disconnected downspouts.

This garden reduces runoff entering the Willamette River one mile away; provides recreational and educational opportunities for the school and surrounding community; and provides a model for storm water diversion that could be implemented by average households.

Water Garden Facts

  • 300,000 gallons of rainwater annually is diverted from an overburdened sewer system
  • Rainwater from school roofs and playground water native plants
  • The area of the water garden = 12,000 sf
  • Download the site plan (900k)
On-Site Living Laboratory

Our students have an opportunity to learn about the environment and sustainability, plant/life sciences, habitat and watersheds literally in the school's backyard.
Outdoor Student Work Area

Students have a reflective work area to do their writing and reading. As well as a great gathering place for storytelling and play acting.