Green has undoubtedly become our culture at Atholton. From the moment we kicked off our Green School initiative in the fall of 2007, we’ve never looked back. Our fifth graders know only this culture, because we’ve been doing things Green around here since the fifth grade class entered our school six years ago as kindergarteners! It is quite a milestone to know we have produced our first class of PURE MD Green School students! In comparison, it is certain these students are graduating from Atholton as greater stewards of the Earth than those who left our halls six years ago. All those who follow will be empowered by the meaningful environmental instruction and initiatives in which they have participated while here at Atholton. These kids will know school no other way. They won’t understand an elementary school without a native garden or without an outdoor classroom. They will feel it is part of normal school life to have bird feeders on school grounds for observation and wonder. We are raising students who understand the importance of learning the ways of nature, and that will strengthen their problem-solving skills and their desire to improve conditions in our world.
Atholton has engaged in numerous meaningful environmentally educational activities, which you will find throughout our digital application. In addition to our outstanding Howard County curriculum, we have studied the Monarch migration, raising, tagging and releasing them for real-world learning. We have grown Bay Grasses and planted them out in nature to understand the critical nature of our Bay’s health. Our students have studied the Chesapeake Bay and have researched specific problems the Bay faces in order to devise solutions. They have conducted native plant research and created artistic masterpieces related to their findings. AES students have studied birds found on school grounds. Environmental learning has been creatively enhanced during art class, music, media and technology. Fifth grade Green Ambassadors have acted as stewards and messengers, spreading the Green word throughout our school while connecting with students and teachers in other grades. Atholton has come together as a community to build an amazing outdoor classroom so our kids can get outside to learn about the world around them and make connections with what they read and write back in the classroom.
Various teachers have voluntarily developed themselves professionally in the area of environmental education, because they see the importance of its place back in their classrooms. Teachers have engaged in meaningful PD experiences that are reflected in their students’ level of engagement as they learn. The variety of staff members engaging in PD is proof of their dedication to our Green School. In fact, several of our staff members are now providing PD as well as attending!
We have celebrated our environmental efforts frequently. Our Waste-Free Wednesday program has been so successful we have become a model for other schools. Our students celebrate weekly as we wear green and identify and recognize a weekly Wastefree Star of the Week in our cafeteria. We celebrate Earth Day Week each year, incorporating a new environmental theme to encourage energy conservation, water conservation or simply reusing what we no longer need. Each spring our families and staff meet at the school to beautify our schoolyard or to plant more native plants and trees. We have created a real sense of place as we care for our school.
It does take a village to bring meaningful environmental learning experiences to our children, and Atholton’s village has been incredible! As you will see throughout our application, our community and school have been as one in our Green School efforts. We couldn’t have done this alone. We have amazing partners!
Atholton has been changed forever. People operate differently in our school on a voluntary basis, because we’re all in this together. If the amount of change we have made in the past six years is any indication of where we are headed, our school’s culture will continue to enhance it’s shade of green for years to come!
Athotlon's List of Top Five:
1. AES Green Team – Consisting of staff, students, parents and administrators, meeting twice monthly, brainstorming ideas and putting them into action regularly
2. AES Outdoor Classroom, Bird Blind & Bird Feeders – Built by volunteers, staff & local business partners and funded by Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant
3. AES Native Garden Art-Based Projects – Including a student-constructed glass, metal & ceramic mural, as well as native plant artwork collaboratively created through science content connections
4. AES Fifth Grade Green Ambassadors – An annual group of approximately 24 students who spread the Green word throughout the school, creating meaningful relationships with assigned students and teachers in other grades
5. AES Wastefree Lunches Program – Consisting of a regular Waste-Free Star of the Week, wearing of the green every Wednesday, tray-washing, and a sophisticated system for sorting recyclables in order to send many of them to TerraCycle