It may not be easy being green, but at Dearborn Public Schools, it’s a priority.
The district has been taking part in the Wayne County Green Schools program for five years. But for the 2011-12 program, all 32 facilities have earned a green designation in recognition of efforts taking place at each facility to teach children about, and encourage, sustainability.
“We have all of our buildings taking part in the program, and we’re one of the only districts in which our administrative center is in the program,” said district spokesman David Mustonen. “We thought it was important to lead by example.”
Green Schools, which is open to all Wayne County public school districts and public school academies in Wayne County, was conceived to meet two goals: The first is to create a greener environment and an energy-conscious culture at school facilities; the second is to teach children how live greener, said Nancy Gregor of the Department of Public Services in Wayne County.
“Schools can be great places to learn about the environment,” she said. “The environment ties in with the subjects they are studying–math, science and even reading. There are so many opportunities for students to be impactful (on their environment).”
Schools can reach one of three designations–Green, Emerald and Evergreen–through the program by participating in activities that are considered green. These activities include recycling programs, horticultural education and scientific experiments and projects. Points are awarded to schools for the number of activities they participate in. Projects are broken down into categories, including recycling, energy conservation, environmental protection, miscellaneous projects, and “point” projects.
So far, Dearborn Schools has 10 green, 12 emerald and 10 evergreen schools–the highest designation a school can achieve through the program.
Growing Green Minds
On a crisp day in May, children at were dressed in bright orange Home Depot aprons, and were elbow-deep in the dirt.
The students were clearing the garden at the school and planting, which–according to Nadia Dakroub, the green coordinator at Oakman–was sorely needed.
“Those gardens were a mess,” said Dakroub, who tapped into a green opportunity when she asked the manager of the local Home Depot to donate a refrigerator for the teacher’s lounge.
“They decided to send a team from the store out to help us with the garden,” she said. “My jaw dropped–they said they were looking for an opportunity like this.”
The students tackled the garden, clearing weed and debris, with donated tools from Home Depot. Employees from the retailer showed the children, who moved through the garden section by section, how to plant.
This project, which helped the school earn evergreen status, taught students how important plant life is to the environment.
“At first, the kids went, ‘Eew, I don’t want to touch it,’” said Daroub. “But now, they ask to go outside.”
Additionally, Oakman also recycles Styrofoam lunch trays, and paper.
Tara Haddad, a biology teacher and coordinator of the Green Club at , said recycling paper and plastic is a regular part of teaching in her classroom.
“Students need to know how important it is to take care of the planet and their environment,” she said.
Some of her biology students have also taken part in the Rouge Rescue, an annual event organized by the , which gives volunteers an opportunity to remove debris and conduct tests at the watershed, which was once one of the polluted in Michigan.
“A lot of what they learn there fits in perfect with what we’re studying in biology class," Haddad said.
Gregor, of Wayne County, said the program has grown exponentially, with most of the districts in the county participating in programs at some or all of their buildings.
“The best thing about the program," she said, "is that it teaches children how to be good stewards of the Earth."