Kids Create Rain Barrels With A Cause

Submitted by Charles Frost on Wed, 09/26/2007 - 20:38.

Kids Painting Rain Barrels

Barrels of fun, with a message


By DONNA L. COLE, For The Capital


Published September 24, 2007


A local martial arts instructor is working with some of his students and four local artists on a project that should help the bay, while raising some money for environmental causes.


The children and the artists have painted several rain barrels, which will be helping the environment in more ways then one.


It all started when Joe Van Deuren, owner of Balanced Life Skills in
Annapolis, was a student in the Leadership Anne Arundel program. The program provides executives with civic and leadership skills, through a series of workshops and introductions to other area professionals.


While Mr. Van Deuren's class visited the Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Facility in Millersville, he said he was impressed by a presentation about rain barrels and water reclamation.


"When you see how valuable they (rain barrels) are and how they can be used, they were awesome," said Mr. Van Deuren.


Once he finished the program and returned to his martial arts school, Mr. Van Deuren realized he could take the rain barrel idea one step further by getting his students to paint them, auction them and donate the proceeds for environmental causes.


"We do a community service project at the school every month," he said. "I was amazed that the kids wanted to do it."


Not just a few kids either. On a beautiful Saturday morning earlier this month, 65 kids showed up to paint six barrels. Another four were painted by local artists.


"It's fun because I like painting and I like drawing," said 7-year-old Eric Walter of
Annapolis. "I don't usually get to help people out."


The children also seemed to understand the idea of helping the environment.


"It is making the world a better place," said 8-year-old Oliver Holmes of


Oliver's mother, Julia Simmons of
Annapolis, was one of two moms who helped Mr. Van Deuren orchestrate the rain barrel project.


"For me, I sing the praises of Joe," said Ms. Simmons. "He's able to pull together a community of people to help the environment."


Ms. Simmons also was one of the four local artists chosen to participate in the project. The others are Barbara Sause of Severna Park, Phyllis Saroff and Roz Carroll, both of
Severna Park.


For Ms. Saroff, the rain barrels were a welcome break from her normal artistic routine.


"Well, it's not my usual media," Ms. Saroff said with a laugh. "It's very light-hearted and capricious I guess. My illustration work is usually very scientific, educational or editorial. Painting rain barrels was just fun and it's always nice to work on projects that have a good cause."


While the experience with Leadership Anne Arundel helped to initiate the rain barrel idea, it was Mr. Van Deuren's martial arts curriculum and particularly the ideas of awareness and self-defense that really brought the whole project together.


"Being aware of who we hang out with, in what we read and who we study for emotional and spiritual transformation is a part of our personal self-defense," Mr. Van Deuren said. "We also recognize that we are not alone on the planet and we need to be aware of the suffering of others and recognize that what we do and consume has an affect on others. Awareness is self-defense - the rain barrel project grew out of our program to learn what we can do to defend the environment."


The money from the rain barrel auction will go toward environmental causes. The money from the auction will be used to fund programs that will result from a partnership with his business and other groups, such as the
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center,
Arlington Echo Park, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other "community groups that care for our rivers and the bay," Mr. Van Deuren said.


The rain barrels aren't a one-time gig for Mr. Van Deuren.


"This is going to be an annual event - we've already decided," he said. "We hope to have more barrels. I would love this to be like the crabs in
Baltimore, like the donkeys in D.C. How cool would it be to have these rain barrels all over town."


Outside of that, there's another, perhaps more important goal.


"It brings about an awareness, which is the most we can hope for," Mr. Van Deuren said. "And then of course, for action, too."


That action will be much easier to take with a work of art under the gutter.


Until the auction, the artists' barrels are under wraps.


As for the kids' barrels - well, they're masterpieces. Real show-stoppers with butterflies, sailboats, birds, rainbows and as far some are concerned, better and certainly more earth-friendly than any old Van Gogh.


The barrel auction is open to the public tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the Sheraton Annapolis Hotel.


There will also be a presentation about how rain barrels can help the
Chesapeake Bay. Speakers will include Anne Pearson, director of the Alliance for Sustainable Communities, and Stephen Barry, coordinator of the school system's
Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center.


Donna L. Cole is a freelance writer living in








Hello Bill,

Using barrels as a canvas certainly lets kids focus on them - not to mention that the drums can look more interesting.  Thanks for finding this…

But having a few drums myself I can say that another big improvement would be a valve that drained the barrel automatically.  Otherwise, the barrel fills with rainwater, and not having been drained, has no capacity for storage the next time it rains. 


Ideally a valve would be connected to a hygrometer.which would open the valve as soon as the soil moisture reached a certain preset.  The hygrometer would open a low voltage solenoid on the drum drain and the stored rainwater would pour out onto the soil.


Then the solenoid would shut automatically and prepare the barrel to store the next downpour. 


I find that I forget to empty the drum, and then, like today, we have a thundershower, and the drum just overflows because it is already full. 


Anything is doable – but we need cheap.  Any ideas anyone?





I am in the process of building a 6 barrel (330 gallon) rain barrel system that is going to overflow into a rain garden containing both a small regular pond and a small vernal pond.

I intend to attach a buried soaker hose to the system and leave the drain valve open a little bit, so that it takes a few days for the system to empty.  Basically, the whole system will act more like a rainwater retension basin than a "proper" rain barrel that needs to be attended to as you mentioned. Also the buried hose will allow better (deeper) penatration of the water into the soil.

I am in the dirt digging and hauling phase of the project.  I just cut the heads off and rinsed out the drums last weekend, but I am trying to post a WIP photo below....

Drop me a line if you want a (muddy) tour.

 Rain Barrel - Rain Garden Project


French drains

I would consider French drains, but in some cities, they are not in code. 


It is as simple as it gets, a perforated pipe, a trench filled with aggregate. 


A hose or pipe connected to the base of the barrel, which leads to a French drain.  The larger the system of pipes and the amount of aggregate used the more water it would absorb. 


In addition, a second pipe could be added to the top of the barrel,  and then connected to another barrel with a drain line.  That barrel or barrels could be located inside a home, maybe in a basement.   If you get water into the home and get it into storage, it could be pressurized with city water and used for laundry or bathing.  


What is interesting is that if you use the rainwater, and then you reduce your water bill.


A plumber, one that has knowledge of boilers could set up the storage tanks, there are pressure regulators that would only let enough city water into the tanks to keep them pressurized and the water drain leading in from the rain water could set to only let water in and not out.   I think it could all have a switch you turn on.  If you want to do laundry or even use it to take shower in the basement, you would flick a switch, which would pressurize the tank.   


I think it would be a few thousand dollars, maybe 4 or 5, the storage tanks and also a second hot water heater the pipes, valves and the labor to install it.


It could also be connected to a lawn irrigation system. 


I think it would be wise to measure and calculate the rain fall, to get an idea of how much rain falls and what amount that could be stored.  Inevitably mother nature will decide how well it works and the person that used such a system would have to use common sense, not to do laundry with it while it was raining outside. 


It is all relative to the location, some people could install a large pond in their yard, you could have bank of barrels in your garage and they could be connected to a hose for watering the garden.