Community Partnerships, Awards, and Special Recognition
Howard County Recycling Division
To help kick-off our improved recycling program, VES enlisted the help of Alicia Moore, Recycling Coordinator with Howard County's Recycling Division of the Department of Public Works. Ms. Moore gave her input on the cafeteria recycling project and to provide recycling presentations to all grades. She helped us understand that schools can recycle the same items as homes in Howard County. Inviting this community partner helped VES tap into County and School Board resources such as a new dumpster and posters that were used throughout the building.
Ms. Moore was one of HCRD (Howard County Recycling Division) that inspired me to be a recylcing coordination when I grow up. I am very concerned about the health of the earth and I would like to focus on decreasing the amount of air pollution to create a safe environment for humans and animals. V.P.-5th grade
UPDATE: The cafeteria recycling program is still going strong, as described in section 2. Ms. Moore came to VES 2 times in the last 4 years. With new students coming to VES each year, it is essential to keep up the education and interest. Ms. Moore visited every lunch shift, talked about recycling and showed what materials could and couldn't be recycled. Ms. Moore also took a look at the County's statistics on the trash and recycling dumpster capacity vs. use and helped to improve the program. She was instrumental in getting the new tops to the recycling containers, which has helped alot!
Department of Natural Resources
Christina Hinz from the DNR was our featured guest speaker for a fourth grade group called "Cherish the Chesapeake". She gave a power point presentation on the Chesapeake Bay watershed followed by a hands-on demonstration of what happens to the Chesapeake Bay when we use everyday items such as fertilizer, soap, etc.
Update: A member of the DNR has come to VES every year to speak to the "Cherish the Chesapeake" group.
Natalie Brewer with Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener program, was essential to the success of the Butterfly/Native Garden project. Ms.Brewer did a presentation to an interested group of students about butterflies and their habitats. She described butterflies native to Maryland and taught the students about host and nectar plants. She guided the students in a discussions of what they wanted their garden to look like. She was extremely helpful in suggesting plants to use and worked with the students to draft a planting plan.
VES also received excellent advice and help from Gregg Connors of Howard County School System's Maintenance Department who refined the native plant list, tilled the garden site and provided mulch.
UPDATE: Howard County Master Gardeners continue to be a great
partner to VES’ green school program.
They have provided speakers on worm bin composting and helped with the 5th
grade Environmental Report Card.
20 Minute Cleanup
VES has been one of the most enthusiastic participants in Howard County’s 20 Minute Cleanup. Since 2010, VES has participated each spring in this County-wide litter cleanup. Every grade is assigned an area of the school and cleans up litter. The first 3 years all students participated. The fourth year, about half of the school participated due to bad weather. VES took the 20 Minute Cleanup beyond the school and into the community by adding a take-home component. All students were encouraged to do a cleanup in their neighborhood. If they did this and submitted a form signed by their parents, they were entered in a prize drawing. Green Team members re-used paper collected from classrooms to make sample pledge forms. They also promoted the project on morning announcements and in the e-newsletter. Three of the years, a County staff member from the Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES) visited the Green Team to help plan the program. As a result, VES was featured in an OES blog post on the topic.
In 2013, the VES 5th grade Girl Scout troop took on Trash Free Tuesday. This project promotes packing a lunch using re-usable containers instead of disposable ones. The Girl Scouts made posters about the project and promoted it with short speeches over the microphone at lunch time. After the idea was promoted, they measured the trash and recycling to see if there were any benefits. They got lots of positive feedback and raised awareness. They found out, however, that they might need a bigger sample size because the amount of trash varied very much depending on what was served in the purchased lunches. Science and statistics in action!
In 2013, the 4th grade Girl Scout troop did a spring cleanup of the Butterfly Garden. The girls weeded, transplanted plants that needed to be divided and spread out, and cut back the previous year’s growth.
In 2014, the current 5th grade Girl Scouts are monitoring the bluebird boxes. So far the boxes have been cleaned so that they are ready for this year’s nesting season and the girls will monitor the boxes and collect the data from April until the end of the school year.
As described in Objective One, PTA collaborates with the VES community on "green" charity drives that celebrate the Earth. These have included Blue Planet Run and the recent Africa Library Project. PTA has also formed and funded a PTA Green Committee. The budget has been $200 - $250 per year. Funds have supported classroom projects, the Earth Day contest prizes, garden plants, solar-powered circuit kits and more.