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Carroll County middle school students act to aid the environment

Last year, Sykesville Middle School's green team took on emissions.

Students would go out into the parking lot during the month of February and ask drivers to turn off their cars while waiting for their children.

The practice won them several awards and a governor's citation.

In its second year, the group has purchased and posted signs declaring the area in front of the school on Springfield Avenue an "Idle Free Zone." Instead of just celebrating "Idle Free February," the group hopes everyone turns their car off all year long.

"We know parents now turn off their cars," said Jeanne Mayo, adviser of the group and the school's media specialist. "Not all. We're working on it. It is much better than before."

The small group of sixth- and eighth-graders usually meets twice a month after school to discuss ways to help the environment.

Students assume various responsibilities, including taking care of the school's bird feeder and collecting data regarding the school's recycle program.

Last year, they created a "Trashie" costume with 500 plastic bags, representing the number of bags an average person collects in a year, and exhibited it in each homeroom.

"Their mission is to basically work to make students in the community aware of environmental issues and the impact they can make," Mayo said. "The students came up with it last year. They researched different issues, different topics they found interesting and thought they could have an impact in the community here."

For the month of March, the group is hoping to bring more awareness to Earth Hour on March 23, when everyone around the world is encouraged to turn off all lights at 8:30 p.m. for one hour. They have created posters and announcements asking everyone to turn off lights and unplug.

"Some things seem (turned) off, but really are not," said eighth-grader Delaney Debinski, 13, about the need to unplug. "Though they're off, they still attract energy. Unplug."

After looking at the school's electric bill, the group is hoping that by everyone turning off lights and unplugging that they can make a difference in the months of March and April.

If the school's electric bill does go down, both the school's principal, Ralph Billings, and assistant principal, Gregory Fisher, have promised to dye their hair green.

"I think we will definitely ...see it on the electric bill," Delaney said. "I know I changed my own family. I'm having an effect."

The group filmed a Public Service Announcement in the fall about emissions and are filming another encouraging everyone to unplug.

Grace Psenicska, 13, wants the group to succeed so it will carry on even after she and her classmates advance to high school next fall.

"Hopefully, the sixth-graders will come back," she said. "You can't expect a huge change in just one year. It needs to happen over a course of years to make a big difference."

A green team at Linton Springs Elementary School has grown so much over the last few years, that this year, the group started a junior team for the younger grades.

The club celebrates Earth Day in April with an Earth Week focused on a theme, such as monarch gardens, Maryland and solar, according to Alaina Haerbyig, green team co-leader.

"It's not rocket science, helping the environment," Alaina said. "It is not hard to do. Get a bunch of kids together and move forward."

Mayo said she is proud of what the eight members have accomplished.

"For such a small group of kids, they've had such a tremendous impact," she said."I would like to see a sustaining club."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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