Something pretty remarkable happened at Marshall Elementary (Vancouver Public Schools) this past school year. Sara Rodin's 4th grade class not only set out to become a certified Washington Green School, but to certify in all six categories in one year! We don't think that has ever been done before, and we generally don't encourage schools to take on more than one project, let alone six, in a single school year. This group of students was determined, though, and set their sights on their goal - there was no stopping them!
Ms. Rodin divided her class into six groups. Each group had a project manager and was in charge of learning about their category, what issues they wanted their project to address, how they were going to create a lasting change, and how to measure their success.
Of her students, Ms. Rodin said, "My kids really should have all the credit. They worked incredibly hard all year long." And it showed! During one of our recent visits, each team told us about their projects and what they had learned about their topic/certification area. The high level of student involvement and leadership was evident from the beginning, when students themselves called Ellen Ives, Clark Green Schools team member with Waste Connections, to schedule their waste audit. The students also teamed up with community members to work on their projects over the weekends, and involve the rest of the school community.
Ellen said, "Sara's embedding of Green Schools activities into the curriculum is a unique approach that empowered her students within the first several weeks of school. Sara told me that it was the students who decided to work toward certification in all areas. Her facilitation of the six groups was an amazing feat. The groups didn't just dabble in each of the areas; they had full-on projects. Impressive, to say the least. Her empowerment of her students includes giving them choices and making it possible for them to follow-through on their decisions."
We presented Marshall's certifications at their year-end assembly, with parents and community members in attendance to celebrate. Students happily shouted out the projects they had seen Ms. Rodin's class working on, and the whole school celebrated their new status as one of the handful of platinum-certified Green Schools in the state of Washington.
Here's a quick look at their six projects:
Students learned about their school's local watershed, made a display showing the amount of trash washing into local streams from their school, painted salmon icons near storm drains, and created a display about protecting local waterways for the school's family Science Night. In their certification application, students said, "When kids saw us picking up the trash all the time they started to do it too. We are older kids so they watch what we do." This group consisted of students Isaac, Lillien, and Dakota.
Students worked with the Family and Community Resource Center on their school campus to teach families how to pack healthier lunches. They also created a demonstration booth to show how to make healthy alternatives to processed foods, made a video with school administrators about packing healthy lunches, and created a display for Science Night. This group was made up of students Niobe, Emaunie, and Brittney.
Students made "no-idling" posters in English and Spanish, created a stop-motion video about pollution from idling cars, made a website about air pollution from vehicles, collected data about student and staff modes of transportation, and created a display for family Science Night. Team members were students Salvador, Jayden, and Keathohn. "Before, we saw a lot of cars idling (36)... Now, there are still about the same amount of cars but they turn their engines off... when they pick us up and drop us off because we put up the signs and told people what to do and they're doing it."
Students created a design for a garden and a plant list, received a grant for building materials, hosted a community garden-building event on a Saturday, constructed a greenhouse, and grew plant starts using school milk cartons. The students and Family Resource Center distributed the starts to local families, enabling them to grow their own healthy foods over the summer. This group consisted of students Lexie, Alanna, Kael, and Ricky.
Students made custom improvements to the sort table provided by Clark County Green Schools, including a PVC-pipe frame where they displayed posters they had created, showing what common lunch-waste items go into which containers. The work done by these students helped the school reduce their waste by 70%! Contamination (non-recyclable items found in recycling containers) decreased from nearly 50% to less than 1%! This group was made up of students Ashley, Tea, Syesha, Kelly, Daniela, and Mya.
Students created poster-reminders for each classroom about turning off lights when not in use, taught other classes about energy conservation, presented at family Science Night, and distributed energy-efficient light bulbs to teachers and to families who attended the Science Night. Their efforts helped reduce energy usage and cost for the school. The students also noted that "...we are working with our new school's design team to make sure there are energy efficient changes." The students on this team, Kaleb and Jaden, learned "That big projects take all year and you have to work as a team to get big things (projects) accomplished."
The accomplishment was certainly a community effort with help from principal Mrs. Geenty and the school administrators, Mrs. Suel, Mrs. Abts, Mrs. Kangas, the kindergarten classes, families who came to work days, volunteers, and the Family Community Resource Center coordinators Pat and Lindsey.
We are so impressed and proud of the work you did this year, Marshall! Congratulations on your accomplishments and your new status as a Washington Green Schools certified PLATINUM-level school!