For the second year in a row, Dulaney High School was named a winner in Baltimore County Public Schools’ Team BCPS Clean Green 15 Litter Challenge. It was so unexpected that principal Samuel Wynkoop had not given serious thought as to what sort of environmental education project his school would spend the $1,500 prize grant on.
“This is a surprise,” Wynkoop said, after receiving the prize during a ceremony at Parkville High School on Sept. 18.
Last year Dulaney High used the grant to construct an outdoor learning area at the school with benches and raised garden beds.
“It’s back to the drawing board on this one,” Wynkoop said.
More than 5,000 volunteers took part in this year’s countywide challenge, which started in May 2017 and wrapped up in April. Volunteers competed to win grants and other prizes from the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools, sponsored through Comcast and BGE. Schools and community groups working on behalf of a school — which get the credit for the hours of work and litter collected — participated. Twenty schools from every part of the county logged 338 cleanup events with 5,057 total volunteers and 3,471 bags of litter and debris collected.
Eleven county schools were named winners. Reisterstown Elementary School and General John Stricker Middle School were awarded $3,000 grants for having the highest number of volunteers and for collecting the most refuse by weight, respectively. Reisterstown Elementary had nearly 1,500 volunteers and General Stricker collected more than eight tons of trash.
Schools other than Dulaney High that received the $1,500 grants were: Battle Monument School, Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology, and Chesapeake Terrace Elementary School. All the grants are to be used to fund school-based projects that emphasize environmental literacy.
In addition, six schools received honorable mentions and were given iPads for instructional use.
Ellen Kobler, spokeswman for Baltimore County, said there was a 29 percent increase in participation this year.
The Litter Challenge is 5 years old, and was initiated because of the idea that anyone can take 15 minutes to clean up their own area wherever they are, Kobler said.
During the award ceremony, attended by County Executive Don Mohler and Interim Superintendent Verletta White, about a dozen Parkville Middle School students performed short readings on what environmental protection means to them. The students cited inspirational quotes on the importance of the natural environment as well as what their school’s environmental clubs does weekly to help keep Parkville Middle green.
White said keeping a school building clean, presentable and free of litter helps students and faculty feel good about coming to school each day.
She also said it helps encourage students to care about each other and how they treat the environment, giving students “that ‘something extra ‘when [they] graduate.”
Before spending the grants, schools must get approval from the the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools to ensure projects line up with the educational mission of the grant.
Projects have to have “measurable objectives” and “address an identified need that is aligned” with BCPS academic goals, said Deborah Phelps, executive director of the foundation.
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The six schools awarded honorable mentions are: Bear Creek Elementary, Edgemere Elementary, Lansdowne High, Millbrook Elementary School, Perry Hall Middle School and Stoneleigh Elementary School. Lansdowne High School listed two cleanups with 60 bags of trash collected.
Lansdowne High School social studies and technology education teacher Jason Mager is one of two teachers who run the school’s environmental science club. He had not heard that Lansdowne was recognized for its cleanup until contacted by a reporter.
Mager said the club does a lot of work around the school’s campus and around the county to engage students and give them “hands-on exposure.”
As an example, students in the club hold vegetable and flower sales at events, and craft fairs in the southwestern part of the county. They also grow native plants in Lansdowne High’s greenhouse so schools can plant pollinator gardens. Students also go on field trips to Middle River to learn about invasive species, Mager said. He said it was important for students to work with their hands and become engaged with environmental protection and environmental science.
“Growing up as a kid, I saw commercials about, ‘don’t pollute.’ Now it’s getting left behind. Students need to be exposed to it,” Mager said.