Fremont Middle and Grant High Schools receive Green School Awards
Two of Newaygo County schools have received certification from “Michigan Green Schools” this past school year. Both plan to pursue the award again this year in spite of the current challenges being faced by teachers and students due to school closures and virtual classes.
Michigan Green Schools is a non-profit 501(c)3 agency dedicated to assisting all Michigan schools to achieve environmental goals. These include protecting the air, land, water and animals of our state along with world outreach through good ecological practices and the teaching of educational stewardship.
Grant High School was awarded the “Green School Environmental Stewardship” designation by participating in a total of 10 activities from four categories. Some of their activities included: paper recycling in the classrooms; hallway, classroom, and parking lot lights upgraded to LED bulbs; environmental protection by inserting a catch basin at a local lake near the school to prevent water run-off erosion; starting a Science Club that focuses on environmentally friendly practices at the school; and observing Earth Day with outdoor garbage collection and other activities.
Jacklyn Rodriguez is an 11th grade student and a member of the Science Club. When asked why she participates in the Green School activities, she answered, “A friend told me about pollution and the environment, so I became interested that way. Last year we asked the teachers if they had recycling bins in their rooms. If they didn’t then we provided bins for them.”
Science teachers Megan Cruzan, Nazar Kluchkovsky and Andy Starr support the activities, providing guidance yet letting the students take the lead on ideas and projects. “We sponsor a Science Club,” stated Mr. Kluchkovsky, “and let the students decide what projects they want to do. Michigan Green Schools was one option. Last year was the first year we pursued it.”
“We have done other projects in the past,” added Mr. Starr, “such as rain gardens behind the tennis courts, where run-off created erosion into the lake. We worked with Sarah Pregitzer from the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative.”
Future projects will depend on how schools continue to be impacted by the Corona Virus pandemic. But these teachers and students have big plans for the future. “We want to get reusable cafeteria trays and silverware instead of the disposable ones we have,” said Jacklyn hopefully.
Fremont Middle School was awarded the “Emerald School Environmental Stewardship'' designation by participating in 15 projects. Some of their activities were: school wide paper and cardboard recycling; kitchen metal and plastic recycling; hallways equipped with motion-sensor lights to save energy; bird feeders in the courtyard to provide an observation platform that allows students to participate in the Cornell Lab Ornithology Program; field trips (pre-pandemic) to the Amazon Rain Forest and to Beaver Island, MI, Central Michigan University’s Biological Station; raising salmon eggs from the MI DNR to smolt phase and then releasing them into the White River; among others.
Teachers Rachel Jaunese and Tim Grabill provide the passion and leadership for student participation in many of the projects, with support from Wes Zerlaut, Principal. The projects listed above, and others not mentioned here, require extra time, energy and dedication from the teachers that go above and beyond their regular classroom requirements.
“We do this because we have a passion for our environment, and so do many of our students,” stated Ms. Jaunese. “They just need some guidance, and projects that they can relate to in our local landscape.”
Bringing environmental stewardship close to home is one goal of Michigan Green Schools. Thus Ms. Jaunese and Mr. Grabill’s students honor Earth Day in conjunction with Packer Pride Day, where students participate in community yard work, city beautification, recycling and cleaning projects.
But Michigan Green Schools also has a broader, global focus with regards to good ecological practices. This is mirrored in the Middle School’s 8th grade science “Climate Change Unit”, which follows the new Michigan Science Curriculum (Mi-Star). In this unit each student completes seven lessons. At the end the students take what they have learned from each lesson and create a presentation, in a format appropriate to address a city council. Students must utilize what they have learned using claim, evidence and reasoning to support their findings.
“Students have to be prepared to be the future leaders in caring for our environment,” affirms Sally Wagoner, Newaygo County Coordinator for the Michigan Green Schools Program. “The Michigan Green Schools Program is a great way to inspire both students and teachers in working together for both local and global stewardship.”
Although the CoronaVirus pandemic has taken students and teachers out of their classrooms this year at various times, both Fremont Middle and Grant High School still plan to pursue certification for 2020-21. Some qualifying projects are already in place at their schools, such as recycling and energy saving lighting. Other projects can be done by students at home or virtually with their classmates. These may include students performing a home energy audit; composting food waste at home as part of a teaching unit; establishing an eco-reading program; joining and participating in one of several teacher approved, youth oriented environmental education websites; and many others.
Teachers, school administrators and students can learn more about Michigan Green Schools and how to pursue certification by visiting: www.michigangreenschools.us/. Contact Sally Wagoner, Newaygo County Michigan Green Schools Coordinator for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newaygo County Environmental Coalition (NCEC), formerly 3R Education, is the local supporting organization for Michigan Green Schools. A 501c3 non-profit, NCEC’s mission is to “promote the environmental health and sustainability of Newaygo County through information, education and advocacy”. NCEC plans an official announcement and public unveiling of its new website and programs in the near future.