by Angela Park, Communications Associate
“It’s not easy being green.”
A school’s green initiatives might not make a significant difference in a city that produces roughly 20,000 tons of waste every day. However, an ecologically-conscious mindset, developed at a young age, may influence an individual’s decisions over a lifetime.
At Graded, the Lower School Green Club encourages students to engage in sustainable living practices and raises awareness of environmental issues. The club, led by grade 5 teacher Patricia Gehrels and grade 3 teacher Leigh Ann Fitch, meets every Thursday after school in Gehrels’ fifth grade classroom. After dropping their backpacks and grabbing a handful of healthy snacks provided by the teachers, club members gather around in a circle in the front of the classroom. Students learn and discuss a variety of topics: recycling processes, insects, ecosystems, and gardening basics — to list a few.
This semester, students opted to start a garden at Graded. To some, planting a garden may appear to be a simple task, but there is more than what meets the eye. Over the course of several weeks, students patiently and diligently mixed worms into the soil, raked leaves, cleared the sod, and added layers of cardboard beneath the compost before planting seeds and flowers.
“Planting the carrots was my favorite part,” said fifth grade student Valentina L. “I also learned about all the benefits of being in contact with nature, how nature can help you, and how you can help nature back.”
Students have witnessed symbiotic relationships between different organisms. “I thought that all animals were bad for the garden,” said third grader Lorena B. “But actually, insects are really good for the garden, and bird poop is really helpful [as a fertilizer].”
Club members have also undertaken other green initiatives at Graded, including recycling. Third grader Arianna H. recalled her first project, where she and her friends “went around from first to fifth grade classrooms to collect all recyclable materials.”
While the gardening project will be ongoing, club members will come together to decide upon their next green project. “At the Think Tank, they mentioned how problem-solving is important, but even more important is problem-finding,” affirmed Gehrels. “It’s this idea of ‘Let’s walk around the school and see how can we improve what we already have.’”
“Our job is to hone their vision a bit, asking them ‘Do you notice that? What does that tell you?’ We’re here to point them to things and get the questions going in their heads,” added Fitch. “When they get older and have the power to facilitate larger change, then maybe this will have been a positive influence for them.”
As Valentina aptly concluded, “Graded could be a greener school, and if we work together we can make it happen."
The Lower School Green Club meets every Thursday from 3:15-4:00 pm in Patricia Gehrels’ E01 classroom. Students in grades 3-5 are welcome to join. For more information, please contact Patricia Gehrels at email@example.com.