Objective Two: Student-driven Best Management Practices
Water Conservation/Pollution Prevention
In 2013, members of the 4th grade Treasure the Chesapeake curriculum extension unit participated in the Chesapeake Bay Drainage stenciling program. Students researched the program, obtained permission from the Principal, and made a tri-fold display for the annual Enrichment Fair. Four strorm drains in the VES parking lot were stenciled with the message “Don’t Dump” “Chesapeake Bay Drainage.”
These messages educate the students and community and remind everyone not to litter or dump anything in the parking lot.
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.
Special education meetings require copies of reports and student plans to be viewed and edited by the IEP team members. This can result in hundreds of pieces of paper used at each meeting. The special education staff at Veterans often use the Elmo projection system which allows one draft of a report to be projected onto a screen for all to view and edit. It is estimated that this saved VES 10 boxes of paper in the 08/09 school year.
UPDATE: This program has continued all 4 years. Estimated paper reduction of 10 boxes of paper each year!
When Veterans Elementary School opened in August of 2007, there were so many materials being delivered in cardboard boxes that there was not any room in the recycling dumpsters for paper from the classrooms. Therefore, a group of motivated students contacted Abitibi Recycling company so that we could recycle all paper in the classrooms. Students ordered the recycling boxes, put them together, and delivered them to all of the rooms at VES. The students are also responsible for emptying recycling boxes from each classroom. There is a new group of students each year who take on the responsibility of paper recycling.
UPDATE: Classroom paper recycling was a major part of the 4th grade student Green Team in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. In the 2012-13 school year, VES worked with the Howard County Recycling Division and the school system to streamline recycling. The Abitibi Paper Recycling dumpster was removed and all recycling now goes to the main recycling dumpster. This has allowed expansion of the program from paper-only to include everything that Howard County residents recycle at home. In the 2013-2014 school year, the team and administration made another major upgrade to the program. New plastic recycling bins were purchased for all classrooms and pods!! The Green Team worked hard to distribute the bins and educate teachers and students about the new program.
The Elmer's Glue Crew is a fun recycling program that promotes recycling glue bottles and glue sticks through schools, students, and teachers. In 2011-2012 the Glue Crew was brought to our school, by 4th grader Athena. In 2012-2013 the Glue Crew program was run by 5th graders Emily and Hannah. Here at VES, all the students contribute to saving the planet by putting all their empty glue bottles and glue sticks in their Glue Crew box, located in their grade's ELA. We do this because the main objective for the Glue Crew is to promote recycling. Eventhough the Glue Crew started with schools, they hope to expand even further. (written by Emily)
Youngest and Only Paper Passing
Veterans Elementary School has 937 students enrolled for the 2009-2010 school year. In order to save paper, when notices need to be sent home from school they are sent home with the youngest student in each family. This saves a whopping 190 copies for everything that is sent home.
UPDATE: This program continued all 4 years. Estimated paper reduction is estimated at 8,000 pieces of paper each year! To further save paper, the VES administration made a policy to discourage "outside" fliers from being sent home from school. Only school and PTA sponsored fliers are allowed. All others must use an electronic version. This has saved countless pieces of paper as well as staff time.
Electronic Weekly Newsletter-Eagle Express
VES has a weekly newsletter, the Eagle Express. In 2008-2009 an electronic version was created and parents were given the option to discontinue their paper copy. In 2009-2010, VES took this one step further, and made the newsletter electronic only, unless a paper copy was specifically requested. Out of 747 families, only 135 paper copies of the Eagle Express are sent home. This saves over 600 pieces of paper each week which adds up to about 24,000 sheets per school year!
UPDATE: As of 2014, paper copies of the newsletter are down to 65. That is out of a possible 839 families!! Estimated saving is over 1500 pages of paper EACH WEEK!
Recycling in the Cafeteria
A group of 4th grade students called the Green Team worked to promote and implement recycling in the cafeteria. This group of students made signs for the cafeteria and broadcast live announcement educating all of the grades on what to recycle and what not to recycle in the cafeteria. They also made posters showing what can be recycled.
I like being on Green Team because it's gives us a chance to teach people to recycle and work as a team. C.I.-4th grade
UPDATE: Recycling in the cafeteria has continued all 4 years. It hasn't always been easy! In the 2012-2013 school year, the program got even better when special lids were added to the recycling bins. This GREATLY improved the program by leading to less trash being accidentally dumped into the recycling. Also during that year, the custodial staff did an excellent job of leading the program and putting one trash can and one recycling bin next to each other during every lunch shift. This was also a huge improvement in making the program easy for students. Every year, a representative from the County has taught students about the program, especially what can and cannot be recycled. The Green Team updates the signs and posters that promote the cafeteria recycling.
Trash Free Tuesday
After educating all of the grades, the Waste Patrol kicked off a Trash Free Tuesday program. The students collected baseline data on the amount of trash being thrown away (a whopping 195 pounds in just one day!) Students then gathered data on Tuesdays to see how much waste we could reduce by educating and encouraging students to bring waste free lunches. Cafeteria staff helped the project by using reusable plastic lunch trays in stead of disposable styrofoam ones. By the end of the year, the amount of waste produced was reduced by 13 pounds and they were recycling an additional 37 pounds of trash instead of just throwing it away! I like the Trash Free Tuesday because I like weighing trash. I am especially excited because I want to compare the weight of the trash from the first weigh day to the last weigh day. VP-5th grade
UPDATE: Trash Free Tuesday was continued one year - 2012-2013. It was a partnership between the GT program and the 5th grade Girl Scout Troop.
Drink pouches like Capri-Sun and other drinks are not currently recyclable in Howard County and could not be added to the school's recycling program. In order to capture this waste stream, a PTA parent volunteer implemented a drink pouch recycling program through the company TerraCycle. Empty drink pouches are collected during lunch times. Then parent volunteers collect and package them to be sent to TerraCycle to be made into consumer products like pencil cases and tote bags. Since the program started in 2009, VES has collected approximately 5,500 drink pouches.
UPDATE: This program keeps going strong. PTA parents collect the drink pouches from the cafeteria and send them to TerraCycle. In the past 4 years, over 22,000 drink pouches have been recycled!!!
Ink Cartridge Recycling
We have many printers in our school which means we go through lots of ink! Instead of throwing away empty ink cartridges, we take them to Staples and they recycle them for us. The school gets a small portion of money for doing this. We then use the money to purchase more ink.
UPDATE: This program continues and has become a regular part of everyday operations.
Butterfly/Native Plant Garden
A group of VES 5th graders and Mrs. Lane, a GT resource teacher planned and planted a butterfly garden on the school grounds in the spring of 2009.In 2008, the students had three Master Gardeners teach them about what butterflies need and give them advice about planning a garden.The Gardeners and students drafted a plan that includes host plants – food for caterpillars, and nectar plants – food for butterflies.All of the perennial plants and shrubs are native plants. The students also worked with Mrs. Lane to write a successful grant application to the Chesapeake Bay Trust to fund the project. A 4th grade class learned about native vs. non-native plants from a parent volunteer, and then raised zinnias from seed in their classroom.When they were ready, the students planted the annul plants in the butterfly garden.
We hope that the butterfly garden will be enjoyed by all of the VES community, and especially by the 2nd grade students.2nd grade science curriculum includes learning about the life cycle of butterflies, raising them in the classroom, and releasing them outdoors.Now we have a place to release the butterflies and see hands-on what the host and nectar plants look like.
The garden was planted in cooperation with the Howard County school system Facilities department who advised VES about what native plants would be best and also provided mulch to help decrease the amount of watering needed.
It was very fun, thinking of ideas and what to do and actually planting the garden. We picked specific plants so that the butterflies have shelter, food, and a place to lay eggs. The caterpillars can also find shelter and food in our garden. It was a lot of work to plant everything in the ground but we had a good time. I hope many others will be able to enjoy it too.
-T. P. 5th grade
UPDATE: The butterfly garden continues to flourish. This has been a great accomplishment, keeping it going and attractive. Every year a small group of VES students has helped to weed and mulch the garden. Also, the 2nd grade team embraced the project all 4 years. In the springs of 2011, 2012, and 2013, second graders learned about butterfly habitat and native vs. non-native plants. They also planted zinnias from seed and watched them grow in the classroom. Some were planted in the VES garden and others were taken home to plant there. In 2014, the 2nd grade team is using the garden as a STEM activity. They are in the process of designing a new area of the garden. They have already worked with students on research and design and have obtained permission from the HCPSS Grounds Department.
In order to educate our Veterans Elementary School students to become stewards of our environment, we have developed a hands-on eastern bluebird conservation project. Our mission is to promote the recovery of the eastern bluebird and other native cavity nesting birds by placing and monitoring nestboxes around our school. Our Parent Teacher Association collaborated with the Howard County Bird Club, Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks and the North American Bluebird Society to develop an age-appropriate opportunity for our students. This hands-on project enables students to actively participate in an educational program which teaches bluebird ecology and demonstrates that actions by individuals have the power to directly effect the survival of a species.
Students in the 2010 seminar Zam's Quest learned about bluebirds through a discussion and presentation created by a Mrs. Smith, a parent volunteer. VES also received help from Woody Merkle, of the Howard County Conservancy who came to VES for a site visit and advised us where to put the boxes. After learning more about the project, 13 students were chosen for jobs in putting up 3 bluebird boxes with predator guards. Students will monitor the bluebirds throughout the Spring and will report results to Howard County's Natural Resources Division.
UPDATE: The bluebird boxes continued to be used much to the delight of the student who participated. In the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, third grade students cleaned out the boxes and monitored the bluebirds in the spring. They used the data sheets from the NestWatch program from Cornell University. VES has an on-line account for reporting the data. In the 2013-2014 school year, the 5th grade Girl Scout Troop 4086 is taking over the monitoring for this year. We plan to get it back in the classroom starting in fall 2014.
Energy Savers-In this seminar students learned about different ways that they could help the environment. They researched different ways to save energy at school and at home. They then educated the school community by designing a logo and putting up mini posters on every light switch around the school to remind everyone to turn off the lights when they leave the room.
Update: VES has had an energy saver group every year. In the 2013-2014 school year, the energy savers decided that it was time to make new signs for every classroom.
Teachers assign students to turn off lights, classroom computers and close blinds.
In addition, the technology teachers have assigned kids to turn off the computers in both computer labs at the end of each day.
There is also a group of green team members who hand out violations to classrooms who are caught with the lights on when no one is present.
Structures for Environmental Learning
Butterfly Habitat Educational Sign
To further enhance the Butterfly Garden Habitat, VES created an educational sign explaining the project. The sign labels the area as a Butterfly Garden, helping prople to understand that it is even more than just pretty. The sign points out that native plants are used. It also explains the concepts of "host plants" - plants for butterflies to lay eggs and for caterpillars to eat, and "nectar plants" - plants adult butterflies use for food. The sign encourages the reader to interact with the garden because the butterfly and caterpillar graphics used for host and nectar plants match smaller signs that label the garden plants. The sign challenges the reader - "Can you find them?" Smaller plant tags list the name and species of the garden plants in case anyone wants to plant these types in their own garden.
UPDATE: This educational structure has been used all 4 years since it was put up. Each year, 2nd grade raises and releases Painted Lady butterflies as part of their curriculum. Each class takes the butterfies outside and visits the butterfly garden. The sign helps to remind students about what types of plants are there. It also lets the parents and the general public know about the purpose of the garden and hopefully inspires them to plant similar plants once they see how attractive they can be.
There is nothing "new" about the sign itself, but just keeping it going through wind, weather and several additions and removals of portables has been a challenge and required putting it back in.