by Lisa Tome
If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, ask a kindergarten student how to do it.
Kindergartners and the rest of the students at Bay View Elementary are working on earning the coveted Green School designation.
The Green School Award is presented by the Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Education. In order to earn this award, a school must have a demonstrated and documented their efforts to integrate green practices. Some of those practices include environmental curriculum, professional development, and community engagement.
Kindergarten teacher Angie Thomas is a member of the school's Green Team. The Green Team works together to improve environmental awareness in the school and the community.
"We have made it a priority to teach them (students) the importance of energy conservation, protection of our wildlife and habitat, and how to make positive environmental changes at school and at home," said Thomas.
Kindergarten students have created signs to remind students and teachers to conserve energy by turning off the lights when leaving a room.
The students then patrol the school and pass out "good job" citations to classes that are practicing good conservation methods. Austin Allen has his photo next to the light switch in the school cafeteria, reminding fellow students to turn off the lights. "We want them to save energy," said Allen.
Natalie Reynolds, also a kindergarten student, explained that recycling in the school cafeteria means throwing things in separate trash cans. "We want to keep the earth clean," said kindergarten student Jordan Westbrook.
The entire school recycles ink cartridges, glue sticks, juice pouches, and milk containers. Some of the items, such as the milk container caps are reused for classroom projects. The school earns money from companies such as Terracycle, for their recycling efforts. Other items that are collected for recycling include cell phones, cameras, mp3 players, GPS systems, head phones, and laptop computers. The school's PTO is also an active partner with the recycling projects.
"It's been easier to implement these programs than I expected," said Thomas. "It's been awesome to work with the community and have those community partnerships."
The school now sends a weekly electronic newsletter home to parents instead of printing a paper version. Students in grades three, four, and five complete some assignments using electronic booklets rather than paper and pencil.
Students in Pre-K and grade five have learned Reduce, Reuse, Recycle practices. They can now distinguish between recyclables and non-recyclables. They have learned to group items by type: paper, plastic, glass, and compost. Victoria Stone, from University of Maryland Extension, came to the school and taught kindergarten students about energy conservation.