As any parent can attest, keeping kids entertained during the summer is no easy task. At Hamline Church, Amy Schroeder Ireland took her job directing Vacation Bible School to the next level, building environmental education into a weeklong summer camp.

Encouraging kids to remember the river

This is Amy’s third year serving as Director of Children’s and Family Ministry at Hamline Church. As a longtime resident of Saint Paul’s Hamline-Midway neighborhood, she noticed “Adopt-a-Drain” signs popping up in her neighbors’ yards. This inspired her to think about Vacation Bible School as the perfect opportunity to teach kids about clean water and give them hands-on experience through stenciling and adopting storm drains around the church.

Hamline Church camp
Amy Schroeder Ireland gets kids excited about cleaning up the storm drains.

This summer, Hamline Church adopted ten storm drains located at the four intersections around the church grounds. The 34 Vacation Bible School campers first cleaned up the storm drains, competing to see which team could collect the most debris from gutters. Soon after, they stenciled the drains to make their commitment visible and discourage dumping.


Individual efforts add up

Hamline Church’s United Methodist congregation has already committed to eco-friendly practices in a big way. A rain garden and an organic vegetable garden add color to the grounds while absorbing stormwater runoff from the church parking lot. Recently installed solar panels dot the roof of the church’s education wing, and the congregation minimizes waste through commercial composting.

Amy is passionate about sharing these earth-friendly practices with Hamline Church’s youngest members. “I think it’s the most hopeful thing we can do,” she said, noting that kids bring their environmental enthusiasm home to share with their families. While Amy acknowledges that it’s easy to get discouraged in the face of climate change, she’s heartened that concrete actions like storm drain stenciling give kids a sense of agency.

The church’s commitment to this Adopt-a-Drain effort will continue long after Vacation Bible School adjourns, and kids will continue to clean storm drains year-round as part of the church’s weekly Sunday School programming.

Wear gloves when cleaning the street or storm drains.
A few simple tools like gloves keep small hands safe while picking up litter.


You can make a difference

It’s common for people to think adopting a storm drain is as simple as stenciling the curb. However, a long-term commitment to keeping storm drains on your street clear of debris makes the most meaningful impact. With a few simple steps, you can protect local lakes and rivers by adopting a storm drain near your home.

Regular sweeping, raking, and clearing litter and organic debris around around your storm drain helps keep our shared waterways clean. Leaves, grass, and dirt that wash down storm drains feed the algae that turns lakes and rivers green. Pet waste, road salt, and litter are other common sources of water pollution.

When cleaning up streets and storm drains, remember to be safe. Stay out of busy roadways and make sure you’re visible to cars. Wear gloves or use a trash grabber to protect your hands from sharp debris. Remember to dispose of trash, recyclables, and compostable waste in the proper bins.

Storm drain debris adds up.
Church camp volunteers weigh the debris collected from storm drains.

Adopt-a-Drain goes metro-wide this summer

The Adopt-a-Drain program will expand to the entire metro later this summer, in conjunction with an exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair. Visit the Adopt-a-Drain booth at Eco-experience (in the Progress Building on Randall Ave.) to learn more about the program, adopt a storm drain, and get a free photo taken in the Adopt-a-Drain photo booth. Or visit after August 15th to sign up for the program.

Residents of Saint Paul, Roseville, Bloomington and Maple Grove can sign up now at: Minneapolis residents can sign up here:

No matter where you live, these simple tips will get you started.

Positive change can start with you. Make a difference in your neighborhood by adopting a drain today.

Smiling drain adopters.
Hamline Church volunteers are proud of their work. Adopt a drain and you will be, too.

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