Mark Danielson’s fifth grade class at Geneva Elementary spent April 20 removing invasive plants from a school trail and picking up litter around the school. Both of these hands-on activities are part of Earth Week, but also action projects associated with the Green Classroom Certification Program. Through workshops, pledges and projects, the program brings conservation education to schools, challenging students to think critically about their use of natural resources. The Green Classroom Certification Program is brought to Bellingham students through a partnership with RE Sources for Sustainable Communities.
“Over the past few weeks the Green Classroom Certification program has allowed us to carry on a prolonged discussion of how we impact the world in even our tiniest choices,” Danielson said. “I like to quote John Muir, who said, ‘When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.’ So when I pick up two or three lost or abandoned pencils each day and then I have to supply students with new pencils the following day, we are choosing to be wasteful in unexpected proportions.”
Before deciding on an action project, students were asked to create a classroom pledge of one new, sustainable behavior they promise to adopt into their regular classroom activities.
“After doing some research into the types of resources that are involved in building a pencil, we determined that producing pencils actually requires an incredible amount of natural resources, fuel and human resources,” Danielson said.
The students pledged to more carefully track and manage their school’s pencil consumption, providing a pencil rescue and share system that reduces waste.
“My morning class pledged to collect and return LOAPs (lost or abandoned pencils) every day,” Danielson said. “My afternoon class decided to pledge that they would cut down on the wasteful use of scratch paper by using white boards to figure out math problems. These pledges are the result of discussing the merits and possibilities of a number of small positive things we could do each day, from recycling paper to sorting the lunchroom trash into the proper containers.”
The final phase of the Green Classroom Certification Program is to complete action projects that impact the community. Danielson’s morning class chose to remove invasive species on a nearby trail and the afternoon class chose to do grounds clean-up around the school. Danielson said he hopes these action projects inspire more respect for the school grounds and will create a spirit of stewardship for the community’s resources.
The Green Classroom Certification Program focuses on solutions for waste prevention, energy efficiency and water conservation throughout Whatcom County. In the two years since its creation, the program has reached more than 1,500 students in over 50 classrooms throughout the county. Currently 19 classrooms in Bellingham Public Schools participate in the program.
“We’re delighted to see students’ learning ignited into action through their enthusiasm and creativity,” said Green Classroom Coordinator Haley Mountain. “Time and time again, I get to see students learning the consequences of their actions and responding with renewed responsibility. They’re an inspiration to all of us.”