Trainer Success Stories

Photo: 2012 rain barrel trainers.

2012 rain barrel trainers. Photo credit: Amy Rowe.

Close to 160 municipal representatives, educators, and environmental professionals have attended the program to learn how to teach their communities about the benefits of rainwater harvesting. Over 50 trainers have reported running their own educational activities focusing on techniques for saving water and reducing stormwater runoff from home landscapes.

If you are a rain barrel trainer we would love to hear about your activities! Email the program coordinator. Below are just a few highlights from various New Jersey communities.

National Finalist

Stephanie Bacskai, an elementary enrichment teacher from Holland Township in Hunterdon County, became a rain barrel trainer in the fall of 2012, and by February, 2013 had already run her first rain barrel building workshop. Stephanie reached out to businesses in her community and created a relationship with Hatfield Quality Meats/Clemens Food Group who donated 20, 55 gallon screw top barrels to her "Love the Rain! Build A Rain Barrel" workshop. 18 families of students participated in the workshop and learned about the importance of water conservation in their community. After conducting this program with her K-2 students, Stephanie's rain barrel program was national finalists in the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge. "I'm really excited about using my energy to teach not only my students, but my home community in Ewing about sustainable environmental actions". Next, Stephanie has volunteered to provide rainwater harvesting education at the West Windsor Farmers Market and a local Hopewell Church near her home.

Public Library Classes

Wanda Knapik, permaculture designer and owner of My Local Garden, runs "Contain Your Rain!" classes throughout the public library system in Morris and Somerset County. Since taking the train the trainer in 2010, she expanded her classes to include easy solutions for conserving, capturing, and managing water on residential properties including rain barrels, rain gardens, and drip irrigation. "I would not have been able to teach residents and students about rainwater harvesting without the education and training materials provided at the Rain Barrel Train the Trainer" said Wanda. Wanda has created a permaculture certificate program which includes how to harvest rainwater, that has been taught in libraries, universities, and non-profit organizations. Over 100 rain barrels have been installed by her students at their homes. In early 2013, she expanded her teaching to New York State and for the first time built rain barrels in the snow!

Photo: Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Rain Barrel display.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Rain Barrel display. Photo credit: Pat Collington

Earth Day Festivals

In addition to working with local boy scout troops on rain barrel installations, Kathleen Murray, Cranford Environmental Commission member and rain barrel trainer since 2010, helps educate her community about reducing stormwater runoff from residential properties at the annual Cranford Earth Day festival in April. Kathleen provides a rain barrel building demonstration and then residents order rain barrel kits that they take home and build on their own. Promoting rain barrels are just one of the ways Cranford is trying to reduce stormwater runoff. In January, 2013, the township adopted a resolution to decrease impervious cover by 10% by the year 2015 on municipal properties through the use of rain gardens and permeable pavements.

Soak it - Don't Send it!

Pat Collington and the Chatham Township Environmental Commission incorporated rainwater harvesting education into their "Soak it~ Don't Send it" program after attending the train the trainer in 2010. Through this program, the commission teaches community residents about rain gardens and barrels and other best practices for infiltrating and harvesting stormwater runoff. The commission has helped 6 schools, and multiple churches and parks install rain barrels including a rain barrel display at the Great Swamp National Wildlife refuge in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

Photo: Middlesex County Master Gardener Rain Barrel Committee members.

Middlesex County Master Gardener Rain Barrel Committee members (from left to right, Maureen Merrill, Dorothy Cohen, April Lippet, Dale Duchai) photo credit: April Lippet

Community Education

The Middlesex County Master Gardeners in the summer of 2011, formed a rain barrel committee and since then have taught close to 100 residents of Middlesex County how to save water on their home landscapes. Dorothy Cohen (Committee Chair), Jan Carrato, Dale Duchai, April Lippet, Michelle Bennett, and Maureen Merrill are committee members. Feedback from county residents on their programs have been overwhelmingly positive: "Great program!" "Very informative.. knowledgeable instructors." "Great enthusiasm".

Train the Trainer classes are run throughout the year in Middlesex and Union County Extension offices by Michele Bakacs, Environmental Agent with Rutgers Cooperative Extension. Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program has been an important partner for this program as they often supply barrels and retrofit kits to trainers for their educational programs. In New Jersey, there is heavy demand for rain barrel programming. The train the trainer program helps fulfill that demand and has reached over 1100 community residents, thereby extending Extension's capacity to deliver stormwater management and water conservation education to the citizens of New Jersey.


  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences