by Susanna Parker
On Friday April 26, I was excited to represent Bethesda Green at the Francis Scott Key Middle School’s 6th Annual Green Day. As the culmination of their Earth Month activities, the school invited representatives from environmental organizations around the Maryland & DC area, including the U.S. National Park Service, the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation, Locust Grove Nature Center, the Department of Natural Resources, and more, to staff tables and discuss their environmental and sustainability efforts. Treva Coates, coordinator of the IB Middle Years Programme, explained that while Green Day is an annual event, the school’s environmental and sustainability efforts continue year round.
Francis Scott Key is an excellent example of a green school. Several years ago, the old building was torn down and a modern up-to-date building was constructed in its place. However, rather than generate tons of construction waste, Francis Scott Key was re-built using 95% of the materials from the old building. Additionally, the new building is equipped with solar panels, and the back field has geothermal tanks installed beneath to assist with the temperature management of their water. These accomplishments are some of the reasons that Francis Scott Key Middle School is a LEED Gold School and the first school in Montgomery County to be designated a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School.
The staff at Francis Scott Key are passionate about getting the students involved in environmental stewardship. They have eliminated the use of Styrofoam trays in the cafeteria, and taught the students to separate trash, paper, and plastic after they’ve finished eating. As I walked through the building on Green Day, I noticed the presence of paper and plastic recycling bins in every hallway and room. To make sure that the student population works with the program, the school has formed a student-led School Energy and Recycling Team that monitors the proper use of the recycling and trash containers in each classroom. Besides the SERT team, there is also the School Beautification Group; students rotate into the group every four weeks learning about ways to be green and sustainable and participate in the monitoring of the recycling program. Finally, a staff member sponsored the Green Crafts club, in which she teaches students how to design and make crafts and jewelry from recyclable materials such as plastic bags.
Throughout the day, students were sent into the activities hall in groups and walked around to inspect the tables and learn about the various organizations. The Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation presented students with dwarf sunflower seeds and growing pods; the Locust Grove Nature Center showcased shells and exoskeletons of species native to Maryland; Montgomery County School Energy & Recycling Team discussed the waste cycle and demonstrated the differences between incandescent, compact fluorescent, and LED lightbulbs; A.I.R. Lawn Care displayed its solar-powered trailer and equipment and talked about the importance of green landscaping. Watching the kids’ reactions as they learned more about the green movement was a great experience. Some kids really seemed to be inspired by what they saw, and I’m sure that Francis Scott Key will see a spike in its SERT team and School Beautification Group. A school that’s already taken such great steps toward sustainability is sure to go further in that direction, and the newly inspired students will certainly help lead them down the path.
Images courtesy of Treva Coates.
Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.