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Local Schools Going Green

From environmental science programs to building renovations that use eco-friendly materials, it’s not hard to find local schools carrying out successful green initiatives. Here’s a look at just a few of the many schools that proudly – and deservedly – bear the green moniker.

Broadneck High School

Broadneck High School in Annapolis can officially call itself a Maryland Green School thanks to the hard work of its students. In 2006, students formed an environmental science club with the goal of gaining green school status. The green school certification program, awarded by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, recognizes schools that meet certain criteria, including environmental education in the curricula, using model best management practices on campus, and addressing community environmental issues. tudents surveyed teachers and documented the results to apply for the program, says Nancy Bougeois, a science teacher at Broadneck and the club’s mentor. Students also started a recycling program at the school. In 2008, the school was awarded green status. This year, the club is building an educational nature trail on campus, cutting steps into the path and working to procure information signs and tree labels. The goal is for any class, science or otherwise, to use the trail, Bougeois says. The club is also working to create a system to shut off all the school’s computers at night.

Chesapeake Bay Middle School

Last May, Chesapeake Bay Middle School in Pasadena became a Maryland Green School based in part on its environmental education program. Doing so was the brainchild of three of the school’s science teachers: Amy Huff, Nichole Werre, and Colleen Maciolek. Tne highlight of CBMS’ program is its bio-retention pond, known as the bog. Built in 2005, the bog collects and filters rainwater runoff from the parking lot of Chesapeake High School, located next door to CBMS. “We also use it as a teaching tool,” explains Jack Gavin, head of the school’s science department. “The idea is that our bog and the filtration that occurs in it is a microcosm of what can be done for the bay.”

The school holds Bog Day each year to celebrate the environment and educate students. As part of the festivities, the school invites students from nearby Bodkin Elementary to learn about the bog, with the middle school students giving presentations to the younger ones. Students also transplant the cranberry plants they have tended all year for use in the bog. In addition to cranberries, students also raise terrapins, eels and yellow perch for release into the bay, as well as grow bay grasses and submerged aquatic vegetation for use in the Severn River. The kids have become very literate in terms of the environment,” Huff notes. “They just suck up the information because, growing up near waterways, boating, etc., it’s very relevant to them. It engages them and they make the connection.”

Gibson Island Country School

At Gibson Island Country School in Pasadena, students at all grade levels participate in environmental learning. Each grade focuses on a specific project with an emphasis on the health of the bay and surrounding area, explains Tim Decker, a science teacher at the school. ifth graders, for example, work on multiple projects. One group is looking at what causes water in the Magothy River to be less than clear. Another group is looking at types of plankton in the water. They also collect, weigh, and record the weight of the compost produced by the school. “They get a better sense of what is being thrown out and learn to use programs like Excel,” says Decker. Fifth graders are currently building a living wall for the school’s office.

Because the third grade classroom has many windows and can take advantage of natural light, these students work together to decide when the electric lights are needed in the room. At the end of the day, the class records the number of hours lights were not used, says Vicki Dabrowka, the third grade teacher. Dabrowka, who also serves as one of the lead teachers for GICS’ green effort, notes that all these projects increase the students’ sense of personal responsibility and fill them with a sense of pride that they are doing something that helps the Earth. GICS became a Maryland Green School in 2006. The school and its students also mentor schools in Harlem, NY; Tampa, Fla.; and Lynchburg, Va.; to help those schools expand their environmental efforts.

Key School

Last year, Jessica Greenwald and Caileigh Feldman, then-sophomores at the Key School in Annapolis and members of the school’s Environmental Awareness Activity, launched an energy conservation project called Kilowatt Kickoff. he two recorded the school’s electric utility bills from 2006 forward, then rolled out the program in April 2008, says Anne Massey, chair of the upper school science department and the activity mentor. They presented a PowerPoint to all students and faculty, asking them to do three things: shut of lights not in use, shut off computers at night, and adjust thermostats. The two also created a logo that they emailed to students and faculty, asking it be posted where it made sense. One month later, the electric bill dropped 20 percent. The two are continuing the program this year; currently they are working to set a school-wide standard for thermostat temperature.

Key School also is in the middle of a renovation, to be completed by 2010, that employs eco-friendly materials and building practices. For example, 95 percent of the material demolished in the renovation has been reused elsewhere in the construction, says Steve Rabbit, chair of the school’s building and grounds committee. The school also invited its students to research green features for possible inclusion in the renovation. Some of their ideas, such as no-flow urinals and solar panels, made the cut, Rabbit says.

St. Andrew’s

James Robeson, a science teacher at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Day School in Edgewater, wanted to engage students in an afterschool program that would give them hands-on experience and further their knowledge of agriculture. And so in the fall of 2007, Club Pollo was born.
The club is a forum for its 32 student members to discuss food production and sustainable agriculture while raising farm animals. Currently the club cares for 20 chickens and two Nigerian Dwarf goats. Students are responsible for feeding, watering, collecting eggs or milk, cleaning the coop, and changing bedding.
The club meets once a week as a group to learn about different agricultural practices, and how food can be produced without depleting the earth’s resources or polluting its environment.

The school is currently working to develop a curriculum that would transform Club Pollo from a club to an elective class at some point in the future, Robeson says.
Club Pollo isn’t the school’s only green initiative. St. Andrew’s has spent the past two years integrating environmental education in every grade from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. It raises rockfish and perch for release into the bay, builds bluebird houses, recycles and much more. Last year, its many efforts earned the school its Maryland Green School status.

Widening the Net

There are more schools doing more green good than one article could ever hope to cover. Here’s a brief rundown of additional school efforts:

  • Annapolis High School, Annapolis. Certified as a Maryland Green School in 2001. The school maintains a recycling program and has a student recycling club. With the help of the Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center, the school installed a rain garden several years ago.
  • Ascension Catholic School, Halethorpe. A Maryland Green School that will be designated a “Model Green School” with re-application in 2010. Since 1999, students have raised bay grasses for transplanting in local waterways. Middle schoolers build bird feeding stations, count bird species, and submit data.
  • Friends School of Baltimore. Building a new LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) dining hall. Middle school building is heated and cooled via a geothermal system and features cabinetry and cases built from wheatstraw, a farming byproduct.
  • Roland Park Country School, Baltimore. Renewed Maryland Green School status in 2007. Uses environmentally friendly cleaning supplies and motion sensors in classrooms and bathrooms to control lights. A green roof on the athletic complex is planted with grasses to absorb water and reduce storm water runoff. Students participate in Bird Club and Butterfly Club. For Earth Day, planting two dozen trees.
  • St. Augustine School, Elkridge. Increased student technology use to reduce paper consumption. Students write reports and journals on PC tablets rather than paper, and teachers correct these assignments online and then email students with comments. Also have a recycling program in place.
  • St. John the Evangelist School, Severna Park. Working towards 2009 Maryland Green School status. Seventh and eight grade students raising oysters in Cypress Creek for release in the bay. Also raising terrapins for release. A school-wide recycling program is in place. For Earth Day, students are participating in a grocery bag art project at Giant in Severna Park. Bags are on display for Earth Day and will be donated to the local food bank afterwards.
  • St. Martin’s in-the-Field Day School, Severna Park. Installing rain barrels. Working towards Maryland Green School status. Recycle paper and plastics. Students learn about local environment and the bay through Chesapeake Bay Foundation speakers. First graders are planting trees and plants in water runoff area to absorb excess water and keep toxins out of local waterways. Hosting a community-wide Earth Day celebration on school grounds in April. For Earth Day celebration, second and eighth graders are creating Chessie, a recycled sea monster made from wire-cage. Trash from the event will fill the monster.
  • St. Vincent Pallotti High School, Laurel. Began Going Green student club in 2008. Club held a trashless lunch competition earlier in the year to encourage students to reduce lunch waste. In development stage for building a greenhouse on school grounds. Participate in City of Laurel recycling program with paper, bottles, etc.

Start at Home

Supporting your school’s green initiatives doesn’t take much effort. Here are two simple ways parents can get involved.

Rethink lunch. If you pack your kids’ lunch, choose reusable or recyclable containers whenever possible and avoid foods with excess packaging. Reduce food waste by packing appropriate serving sizes.

Buy green supplies. Paper can account for almost 50 percent of a school’s trash. Purchase environmentally friendly school supplies such as pencils, paper, and notebooks containing recycled content. Reuse materials as much as possible, and recycle what you can’t.

Maryland Green Schools

The Maryland Green Schools program recognizes Maryland schools for a wide range of green initiatives. According to the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, which runs the program, the program takes a holistic, integrated approach that “incorporates local environmental issue investigation and professional development with environmental best management practices and community stewardship.” In contrast, many green school programs nationwide focus solely on energy conservation. To maintain green status, Maryland schools must successfully reapply every four years.

As of February 2009, the following local schools are current with their certification or recertification:

  • Anne Arundel County
  • Benfield Elementary School
  • Bodkin Elementary School
  • Broadneck High School
  • Chesapeake Bay Middle School
  • Davidsonville Elementary School
  • Folger McKinsey Elementary School
  • Gibson Island Country Day School
  • Hebron-Harman Elementary School
  • Mayo Elementary School
  • Severna Park Elementary School
  • Shipley’s Choice Elementary School
  • St. Andrews United Methodist Day School
  • St. Mary Elementary School
  • The Harbour School of Annapolis
  • West Annapolis Elementary School
  • Calvert County
  • Beach Elementary School
  • Calvert Country School
  • Calvert Elementary School
  • Dowell Elementary School
  • Huntingtown Elementary
  • Mill Creek Middle School
  • Mt. Harmony Elementary School
  • Northern High School
  • Patuxent Elementary School
  • Patuxent High School
  • Plum Point Elementary School
  • Plum Point Middle School
  • Windy Hill Middle School
  • Prince George’s County
  • Berwyn Elementary School
  • High Point High School
  • John Hanson Montessori School
  • Queen Anne School
  • Robert Goddard French Immersion
  • Robert Goddard Montessori School
  • Scotchtown Hills Elementary School

To view a full list of all Maryland schools, go to maeoe.org/greenschools/listing.

For Teachers: How to Become a Green School

In partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education will conduct a class for teachers this summer on “How to become a Green School.” The five-day course explores tributaries from the Baltimore/Annapolis areas through the watershed and ends at one of the islands in the Chesapeake Bay. It will focus on curriculum and habitat restoration. The class meets July 7-11 and includes two local day trips and overnight stays at the Island Study Center.
To sign up, go to: www.cbf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=lrn_sub_teachers_professional_immersion_july

Karen Gaspers is a freelance writer and mother in Chestertown, Md.

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