Conservation, other green lessons intertwined in Gwinnett's curriculum

Conservation, other green lessons intertwined in Gwinnett's curriculum

“In the end, we conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”
~Baba Dioum, Senegalese poet

Green lesson for the day… Everything we do, or don’t do, has the potential to have an impact, good or bad, on everything else. Environmental education is woven throughout GCPS’ Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) curriculum and across grade levels, laying the educational foundation for a lifetime of conservation awareness and environmental stewardship.

“We are educating future community leaders and engaged citizens, so it’s important that our students have a clear understanding of the impact of the environment, healthy or harmful, on our community’s quality of life,” says Tricia Kennedy, GCPS’ executive director for Curriculum and Instruction.

However, the school system can’t do it alone. Both governmental and non-profit community partners— including Gwinnett County departments, Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center, Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful, and The Clean Air Campaign are vital to GCPS’ success in leading students toward informed citizenship, says Ms. Kennedy. Learn more about environmental education and AKS correlations from one of GCPS’ community partners.

For 2006-07, more than half of GCPS' schools earned Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful's Environmental Achievement Award, which recognizes schools for planning and implementing environmental programs, practices, and education efforts in seven specific earth-friendly areas: waste reduction, education and stewardship, water conservation and watershed protection, air quality, energy conservation, beautification and green space preservation, and community outreach. Find out more about the Environmental Achievement Award when you click here.

Here are just a few ways that classroom and extracurricular activities demonstrate that environmental stewardship is everyone’s concern:
  • Some lessons that start in the classroom lead to outside projects that preserve and protect resources. For instance, in a study of limited resources, 6th graders at Pinckneyville Middle make the connection between bauxite mining at the Equator and a recycling project for aluminum juice cans in the school cafeteria. (The heavily imported bauxite is a key component in the cans.)
  • Business management students at Peachtree Ridge High collaborate with students in video and web classes to promote their school recycling company. Their goal is 100% participation in classroom paper recycling. Says one student, “Protecting the environment is the responsibility of every citizen and every company in America that expects consumers to be loyal to them.”
  • With streams, rivers, and nearby Lake Lanier close to home, water quality issues have real-life applications for students. Several schools with streams on campus conduct field stream tests. Classroom lessons on water pollution and harmful runoff may lead to participation in a storm drain stenciling project. Click here for more on the campaign to mark storm drains and reduce water contamination from runoff.
Peachtree Ridge High business management students collect paper for the recycling effort.
  • Countywide, schools— often with business partners or PTA assistance— have built outdoor classrooms, teaching amphitheaters, pond habitats, and nature trails. Gardens and green spaces boast native flora and the occasional fauna. Beautification and clean-up projects at school and in the community allow children to learn, first-hand, the positive impact their actions have.
  • Through the Sun Power for Schools program sponsored by local energy co-ops, including Jackson EMC, Mill Creek High hosts a solar panel. The cell converts solar power to AC power. Energy provided by the cell replaces traditionally generated energy, preventing emissions of nearly 6,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide since installation in late 2005. Data from the cell is logged and available online. Teachers at Mill Creek and around the country use the statistics in environmental science, physics, math, and other classes. Click here to learn more about the Mill Creek solar project.
  • If it can be recycled, seems like they recycle it over at Lanier Middle… from athletic shoes, Styrofoam, and grocery bags to printer cartridges, plastic bottles, and paper. The staff and students all pitch in to divert recyclables from the waste stream. Classroom teachers also find ways to reuse items that might otherwise be discarded. One collects magazines to share with retirement centers. Another reuses household containers for art projects. Cardboard paper towel rolls help orchestra students learn proper fingering techniques. The green ethic extends to litter-free meetings and school events.
  • Students in the Volunteer Center at Meadowcreek High have gained recognition for their green activities in the community, including graffiti and trash cleanup projects. In fact, motorists have stopped to thank the students for their efforts to help the community during a roadside cleanup event, a source of pride for the participants.
  • Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful and the Gwinnett County Soil and Water Conservation District each sponsor a $1,000 scholarship for graduating seniors pursuing postsecondary studies toward a career related to the environment. Click here to learn more about this program.
Meadowcreek High student volunteers bring Mustang pride to preserving the environment during a past event, "Bring One For the Chipper."
  • Educational field studies at the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center include a tour of the exhibits, trail walks, teacher-selected labs, and more. The labs are AKS-focused and cover a range of science topics. For instance, 7th graders can observe the cycle of life-death-decay within a forest ecosystem with Producers, Consumers & Decomposers.” And the 233 acres of woodlands around the Center provide a perfect lab setting for comparing the similarities and differences among plants, animals and insects that are native to this region in a field study for kindergartners, entitled Beaver, Bluebirds, Bees and Trees…” Learn more when you click here.
  • The Clean Air Campaign and Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful partner with schools to encourage parents in the car rider line to turn off their cars while waiting for the last bell. Typically, 60% or more of the drivers have their engines running while they wait. “No Idling Zone… Little Lungs at Work” gets the message across. Reducing excessive idling is one of several pollution-reduction components for schools participating in the Clean Air Campaign’s Better Air Schools program. R.D. Head Elementary’s long-running campaign has reduced idling below 5%. The school credits the program’s success to strong parent participation and an involved student body that has taken the environmental message to heart. Click here for more about the anti-idling initiative.

Craig Elementary students test the waters of Ivy Creek, near the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center.
The message that environmental stewardship is everyone’s concern is demonstrated in these examples and hundreds more that you’ll find around Gwinnett County Public Schools… just ask what’s “green” at your child’s school.

Thanks and kudos to staff, schools, and departments that helped gather information for GCPS Green stories in the fall 2007 issue of Communiqué and on the web site: Jim Barbee of Peachtree Ridge High; Diane Cheatham of Duncan Creek Elementary; Michelle Farmer of R.D. Head Elementary; Linda Flagler of Pinckneyville Middle; Alexis Harsh of Craig Elementary; Laura Kohnke of Peachtree Ridge High; Chad Lane of Rebecca Minor Elementary; Allen Rogers of Lanier Middle; Suzanne Roginski and Joel Gibson, both of Mill Creek High; Tricia Kennedy of Curriculum and Instruction; Kathy Barrett of Curriculum and Instruction, working with Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center; Brenda McDaniel, Lori Rickards, and Connie Wiggins, all of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful;and Brooke Barnes and Julie Dowdy, both of The Clean Air Campaign.