Four Lakeland, Fla., schools are putting a little art in local yards. Students at Lincoln Avenue Academy Magnet, Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, Lakeland Christian School and Rochelle School of the Arts are painting colorful rain barrels that will be sold at the city's Spring Obsession, according to a report issued by U.S. Water News Online (

Anne Yasalonis, coordinator for the county's Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program, brought the rain barrel idea to the schools. A grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District is paying for the project, she says. “I hope they're learning a little about water conservation and what they're painting and what they're used for,” she stresses.

The barrels, equipped with spigots, are positioned near roofs to collect rainwater that can be recycled. The water is good for watering plants or washing tools and helps save tap water.

The money from the barrel sales will go back to the schools. Students have painted about a dozen barrels. They feature colorful underwater scenes, waterfowl and flowers. The barrels will be sold for about $20 to $30 at a Spring Obsession festival, according to Lincoln science resource teacher Shannan Combee.

Lincoln fourth-grader Tucker Wyma, 9, explains the scene he decided to paint: “Half of it's under water and half of it's above water,” he explains. “And it has like these really cool plants. And there's fish under the water, where the blue is. It's just really neat.”

Gabrielle Segree, 8, a third-grader, chose to paint a swan on her barrel with the help of her dad, Donald. She said it took five to 10 days to finish. “It can collect the rain,” she says. “And you can save your water resources.”

Combee says the project works very well with the magnet program at the school, which focuses on science, math and technology. She wants her students to understand the importance of conserving natural resources. “We do a lot of recycling here at our school,” she notes. “We recycle aluminum cans and newspapers and ink cartridges and tennis shoes. This is just one more way to practice conserving our resources. It's one thing to teach the kids,” she says. “And it's another thing to have them involved in the conservation.”

Yasalonis says there would be awards for the first-, second- and third-best rain barrel in three age groups. There also will be a best overall award for one rain barrel. She says she would have about 50 plain barrels for sale at Spring Obsession for folks who want to paint their own. Those buckets will cost $15 with proceeds going to a new playground for children of all ages and various physical abilities.

Yasalonis regularly conducts classes in rain barrel-making for adults. She said it's one of her more popular classes and an easy project to finish. “It's a small thing to do for water conservation,” Yasalonis explains. “But when people do small things, they start thinking about other things they can do. So it's a stepping stone.”