At Folger McKinsey Elementary, our Maryland Green School and newly awarded National Green Ribbon status are part of the daily educational experience and integral to the culture that is fostered in and out of the classroom. Dedicated to fostering life-long learners, the school capitalizes on every opportunity to promote environmental literacy. “Being green” is much more than a few environmental science lessons and recycling. It is part of the school culture in which lessons and activities that increase environmental understanding and responsibility are implemented whenever and wherever possible. In addition to grade level specific programs, school-wide educational activities allow students to experience the environment. Every little bit makes a difference…
The Greater Severna Park Watershed Action Group hosts an annual Earth Day Festival, drawing thousands to participate in environmental education. Folger students and staff participate annually, both the day of with a demonstration and activity booth, as well as in the planning and implementation of the event. Earth Day actually becomes “Earth Month” at Folger as the school gears up for the Festival, along with capitalizing on the popularity of the environment as a hot topic in April. Each grade level creates or updates its tri-fold that is on display at the Festival. Each grade highlights one environmental activity or concept that takes place at Folger throughout the year. The PTO organizes volunteers to lead interactive games at the Folger booth, including the “Trash Challenge” and “Our Earth is in Jeopardy” quiz game. Scout troops from the school created the banner for the booth. As a result, the entire school takes part in making our school’s booth a reality.
At the recent Spring Concert, featuring the orchestra, band and chorus, parents were informed that there would no longer be a printed program in an effort to reduce paper and energy in creating it.
Read Across America Day celebrates reading by honoring Dr. Seuss and Folger makes this day special with “celebrity” guest readers in every class. A “green” component was added to the event two years ago and it wasn’t eggs! Instead, each student is asked to donate a gently-used book to be shared with a reading program in a neighboring area that seeks to get books in the hands of children who would not otherwise have access to reading materials.
The importance of recycling is highlighted with an annual classroom challenge. Students are encouraged to bring in magazines and catalogs from home to be recycled at school. The items are measured to track just how much paper is coming into our homes and to highlight how we can reduce this and why it’s crucial to recycle, rather than just throw in the trash. The prize for the class that recycles the most is an extended recess with team-building games led by volunteers. Being outside is a great place to learn – and this kind of prize instills a renewed appreciation for the earth.
America Recycles Day is gaining attention and it was added to the calendar at Folger. Parent volunteers met with all 22 classes on this Fall day to remind students about recycling in class and in the cafeteria. Lessons focused on what is recyclable and the difference recycling makes to the environment. Taking it a step further, the presentation also addressed reducing waste through packing re-usable lunches. For participating, every student was entered into a raffle and all prizes promoted the environment: t-shirts with “green” messages, pencils made from recyclable material and re-usable lunch boxes, containers, utensils and water bottles. All of this reinforces the message and helps students to actually make the step in improving their actions.
Capitalizing on pop-culture, the popularity of The Lorax movie was integrated into the classroom at many grade levels. For example, students made posters in which their faces were placed on the Lorax then asked what he/she does or will do to save the earth. This activity engages students of all ages and instills in them the idea that they indeed make a difference and their actions and ideas matter.
Classroom lessons, field trips, activities, community partnerships – they all help to promote environmental stewardship at Folger. The Maryland Green School flag and National Green Ribbon are not just on display at Folger McKinsey Elementary; they are a way of learning and green living. At Folger McKinsey Elementary School, we seize every opportunity to make the connection between traditional curriculum requirements with the natural world, using the environment as a valuable instructional tool to attain educational objectives, in part by simply getting outside.