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Snoqualmie Elementary goes green
A trio of fourth-graders held their noses as they dumped food waste into a worm bin at Snoqualmie Elementary Schools courtyard. Smelly as the task was, the girls appreciation of the environmental importance of composting spurred their enthusiasm to complete it. Its all thanks to the education they receive as part of the schools award-winning participation in King Countys Green Schools Program. At lunch, students and teachers dump food scraps into bowls, understanding that instead of being added to piles of garbage, their waste will help create rich soil.
Composting is one of many sustainable practices that has earned SES the countys Earth Hero at School honor; representatives from the school will accept an award at a ceremony led by King County Executive Ron Sims the afternoon of Thursday, April 24.
Since SES teachers, administrators and parent volunteers started a waste reduction and recycling program last spring, the school has reduced its waste output by 60 percent. Perhaps more importantly, its raised environmental awareness among both students and adults, and given children a sense of ownership and pride in their school, said fifth-grade teacher and Green Team participant Bill Hayden.
When kids are physically involved in making this school a nicer place by picking up litter and by schlepping these recycling bins, they can look themselves in the mirror and say, Im really part of what makes this a strong school community, Hayden said.
I just like helping the school and I care about the earth a lot, said fourth-grader Haley Huntzinger, who had just finished hauling a load of paper to one of many recycling bins. Recycling helps our earth, and helps about global warming.
Other students are just as excited to take turns collecting recyclables around the school; thanks to informational stickers on the containers, everyone on campus knows exactly what can and cant be put in the green bins.
The students have a great attitude about it. We have a lot of volunteers, said Principal Cori Pflug.
Student volunteers have also made posters about the new milk carton recycling program in the lunchroom, and help monitor their peers recycling.
The school is also focusing on re-using resources. For example, Greenoughs students cut and glue together one-sided sheets of paper to make notepads.
Instead of just recycling it right away, lets re-use it one more time and get all the use out of it, Greenough said.
Each week on Waste-free Wednesdays, students are encouraged to bring their lunch in re-usable containers to reduce waste.
If youre going to have chips, lets get the big bag and put them in a re-usable container, take it home, and wash it, and then we dont have garbage, Greenough said. The hope is that making the special effort on Wednesdays will eventually lead to automatic waste-saving behavior on all days of the week.
Jacque Gardner, the schools PTSA president and a Green Team member, said her children sometimes chide her to use sustainable practices.
If I put a sandwich in a plastic bag instead of Tupperware, theyll remind me. Its great! she said.
The Green Team isnt resting on their sustainably-grown laurels. They meet regularly to brainstorm new ways to help the school help the environment.
The idea is not just to do more recycling, but to raise awareness with all of us about what that means, and how can we look at this in our own lives, Pflug said.
One plan is to institute a no-idling policy in the school parking lot to reduce air pollution from cars.
Were ordering signs and theyll be out to raise awareness with the parents, Pflug said. Shes also working with the school district to install energy-saving automatic-sensor lights in classrooms that dont already have them, and trying to get a greenhouse installed on campus.
With composting, we could use that soil to feed the greenhouse, and it would be the whole sustainability aspect of recycling. The kids could see it from start, and how it ends, Greenough said.
The team also hopes to increase teachers use of the wetlands adjacent to the school for environmental education as they integrate students understanding of green practices with science class materials.
Hayden has his fifth-graders do simple, hands-on exercises like closely examining a tree branch to learn about its biology.
Thats really important, this idea of connecting with our world by taking a little bit of time and looking closely. Then they start appreciating it, he said.
The Green Team has worked with teachers from other schools, including fellow Earth Hero Erin Spiess of Chief Kanim Middle School, to get recycling programs started.
I want us to go to the next level, where every school is recycling, every student and every parent is participating, third grade teacher Gretchen Hinds said.
The team also hopes their own students will take lessons learned with them to middle school and beyond.
Kids are really going to be the leaders of the next generation, and theyre going to take what they learned to heart. Theyll remember, Oh yeah, we recycled in our elementary school. Its going to carry forth generation after generation. Its a ripple effect, which is really exciting, Hinds said.
Teamwork at the school has been key to making it all happen.
People not only have to be vocally in support, but also physically in support. We have a team of teachers, parents, administrators, and janitors on board, and the districts on board, Hayden said.