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Salem Public School wins board environmental award

Eco students - Katie Miller, Megan O’Krafka and Fiona Noel are members of Salem Public School’s green team that helps collect compost from classrooms. On April 24 the school received a $1,000 prize for winning the Upper Grand District School Board’s Environmental Education Curriculum Contest.   Photo By Jaime Myslik

Salem Public School wins board environmental award

by Jaime Myslik

SALEM - “Live green, learn green, go green.”

The Upper Grand District School Board’s (UGDSB) slogan is embodied in Salem Public School, which recently won the board’s Environmental Education Curriculum Contest.

At a special assembly on April 24 members of the school’s EcoTeam accepted the $1,000 prize from UGDSB sustainability lead Karen Acton.

The contest stemmed from the board’s plan to help schools collect points for the Ontario EcoSchool certification.

Ontario EcoSchools is an environmental education and certification program that helps schools develop both ecological and environmental knowledge and responsibility while reducing the school’s environmental footprint.

The program focuses on: teamwork and leadership, energy conservation, waste minimization, school ground greening and curriculum, and environmental stewardship.

Depending on the number of points attained, schools can achieve bronze, silver, gold or platinum certification.

Last year Salem received a gold certification.

One way schools can earn points towards higher certifications is through submitting plans for environmental lessons.

So, Acton asked each school in the board to put together environmental lesson packages.

“The school that collected and submitted the highest number of lessons over a seven-month period would win the grand prize of $1,000,” board spokesperson Heather Loney wrote in an email.

“Teachers were each allowed to submit up to five lesson plans each, and each lesson had to span at least two periods.”

Salem Public School completely embraced the contest.

“You had 100 per cent participation and each teacher didn’t just teach one (lesson) they taught a whole pile,” Acton told students at the assembly.

“When I saw Salem Public School enter the competition and send me their results I got this thick wad of paper.

“Every teacher sent me their five lessons and they told me what exciting things you guys have been doing. Really fun stuff.”

Of the 10 schools that entered the contest Salem was the only one with 100% teacher participation.

But for Salem Public School, daily environmental lessons are normal.

“When we heard about [the contest], we were like that’s a really cool way to get money for the school,” said Salem environmental co-lead teacher Ashley Switzer.

“But really our school does so much already ... the kids are already into it so I think ... it was easy because ... it was just a matter of putting it on paper.”

The school has a green team of 10 to 15 students, three of which are Grade 5 students Fiona Noel and Katie Miller and Grade 4 student Megan O’Krafka.

“The kids get excited about it,” Switzer said.

“They’re telling us ‘we need to have a meeting, we need to make our next plan.’ Every week they’re like ‘what can our initiative be this week?’

“They’re really eager.”

The school is going to ask to the students for input on how to spend the $1,000 prize.

Noel explained the club is on a monthly rotation for compost duty.

“We have been going around the school and digging through the garbages and sorting our composting and recycling,” she said.

“We have a big black bin from the staff room and we put the compost from each bin into the big black one and then we move it outside.”

The club also maintains the flower bed at the front of the school.

Miller said they use plants “that don’t have a lot of work so we can keep them over the summer without people having to go back and water them.”

Switzer said they’re looking at planting a butterfly garden.

“I just think we love our Earth and we don’t want it to be cluttered up,” O’Krafka said. “We’re just helping I guess.”

Though the students were excited about winning the contest, recognition isn’t what motivates them to be environmentally aware.

“We’d do it even without an award,” Miller said. “It just feels good to have one.”

 

May 5, 2017

 
 

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