Carroll County Times

Sykesville area schools acknowledged with environmental awareness awards

Three schools in Sykesville and Eldersburg were recognized this year by the Board of County Commissioners and the Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council for their accomplishments in the protection, conservation and improvement of the environment.

Linton Springs Elementary School and Sykesville Middle School each received the Environmental Awareness Award, while Freedom Elementary School received an honorable mention.


Linton Springs Elementary School

The Green Team at Linton Springs completed numerous projects this year that made an impact on the entire student body, according to gifted and talented teacher Alaina Haerbig, who helps to coordinate the club.

"Truly, the environmental awareness impact is huge," Haerbig said. "It's almost like we have an entire outdoor classroom that gets used all the time."

Haerbig said the Green Team, which has around 40 members, used approximately $5,000 it received from various grants last year to build community gardens for each grade level to use.

The fourth graders created a garden with plants that were used for medicine in colonial times to tie into their colonial history curriculum, and the kindergartners planted peas which they used to do experiments.

The students also got to taste some of the plants they grew, like Jerusalem artichokes, also known as the sunroot or earth apple.

"Kids would have never eaten that before, but because they had a part in growing it they gave it a try," Haerbig said.

She said the gardens produce so many organic vegetables and other edible plants, that the school is able to donate the surplus to local food banks.

In addition to tending to the gardens, the Green Team implemented a school-wide recycling program this year to recycle batteries, glue sticks, juice boxes and regular recyclables.

Haerbig said the Green Team's accomplishments would never have been possible without school volunteer Anna Letaw, who is at the school all the time working in the gardens and on other projects.

Sykesville Middle School

The 2011-12 school year was the first year for the Green Team at Sykesville Middle School, according to Media Clerk Michelle Vondy, who helped Media Specialist Jeanne Mayo organize the club. 2011-12.

The 10 seventh- and eighth-grade girls on the Green Team focused most of their efforts this year on the issue of reducing idling from waiting cars.

The group declared February "Idle-free February" and urged parents to turn off their cars while waiting in line to pick students up, Vondy said.

The girls convinced several parents, teachers and students to sign a pledge to stop idling their cars.

Vondy said she and the members of the Green Team were surprised by the impact they have had on the community, especially with their "Idle-free February" campaign.

The Sykesville Middle Green Team also collected plastic bags to turn into "plarn," yarn made out of plastic, which they gave to volunteers to weave into mats which will be donated to the homeless.

The club also implemented a program called "Green Home Room," which encouraged home room classes to complete a checklist of 10 environmentally friendly items, like turning off the lights as much as possible and having a plant in the room, Vondy said.

Home rooms that complete all 10 items at any point in the school year are rewarded with a lunch outside by the school's pond.

The club didn't have to spend much money this year, but they are in the process of selling reusable shopping bags to raise funds for next year's projects, she said.

"We got a lot more accomplished than we thought we would," she said. "I didn't think it would take off as big as it did. It was amazing."


Freedom Elementary School

Freedom Elementary School received an honorable mention this year for instituting the school's first Green Team, which is called FEAT -- Freedom Environmental Action Team.

Fourth grade teacher Jane Castner, who coordinates FEAT, said there are around 30 students in the club.

The club built a compost bin for students and staff to use during all six of the school's lunch shifts, and they also instituted "No Trash Tuesday," she said.

"No Trash Tuesday" encourages parents and students to pack lunches using reusable or recyclable containers. Castner said they have gotten Tuesday's lunch trash down to only one ounce per student, and they hope to go totally trash-free in the future.

Students in FEAT have also written, produced, directed and starred in public service announcements that run on the morning news and aim to educate others about saving energy and reducing waste.

Another big project FEAT has started working on is a 10-foot by 6-foot green house, about the size of a shed, made out of 2-liter bottles, Castner said.

She said it will take around 1,500 2-liter bottles to complete the green house, and the team has about 700 bottles so far.

The green house will be used to grow seeds and seedlings needed for each grade level's curriculum, she said, and it will be especially helpful for the kindergartner's monarch butterfly garden.

FEAT's projects are funded by the Freedom Elementary school store, but they are still seeking donations of plastic 2-liter bottles to complete the green house by the end of the school year.

For more information on how to donate bottles, call 410-751-3525.