Reservoir High goes `green'

School club's efforts will be rewarded with an environmental prize

May 20, 2007|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,special to the sun

The official Reservoir High School colors are orange and blue, but thanks to science teacher Heather Simons and the students in Club SAVE, the school is now "green," too.

Club SAVE (which stands for Students Against Violating the Earth), with Simons as adviser, has been working for three years to make the school an official Maryland Green School, a designation bestowed by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education. And they recently learned they have succeeded.

The Green Schools Award Program, established in 1999, has recognized dozens of schools in the state, including St. John's Parish Day School, Hammond Elementary School, Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School and Hammond Middle School, all in Howard County.

This year, the awards ceremony will be May 31 at Catonsville Community College. Winning schools will receive a flag, a tree to plant and other goodies, said Karen Cifranick, MAEOE Maryland Green School Program Committee co-chair.

State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick and Comptroller Peter Franchot are expected to speak, and other state officials will be on hand, said Carol Towle, MAEOE executive director.

Twenty-seven schools are being certified as green for the first time, said Towle, and 15 are being recertified, an option for schools that were certified three years earlier.

In Howard County, Reservoir, Dunloggin Middle School and West Friendship Elementary School are being certified as green, she said.

"High school's really hard to do," Towle noted, in part because the school needs to include environmental education in its curriculum.

Simons said she was involved with the program when she was a teacher at Annapolis High School in Anne Arundel County, and liked it so much she brought it to Reservoir.

The program, available to all public and private schools in Maryland, prekindergarten through grade 12, calls for students to document the things being done to protect the planet. These can include recycling programs, efforts to filter storm-water runoff, energy conservation activities, habitat restoration and more.

Among other projects, Club SAVE has participated in two cleanups at the Patuxent River, has started a native garden, has brought recycling bins to classrooms, has raised awareness of how to conserve energy and has raised money for wildlife protection.

The first year, the club had three students, Simons said. Now there are 11. "This is probably the biggest its been," she said. One reason is the growing awareness of environmental issues.

Junior Chris Miller, the club's president, noted that the environment is a big issue, and one mission of the club is to inform people about the dangers of global warming.

"We're going to be the future, so we might a well help save it," said member Priya Patel, a senior.

Recently, the club completed its final requirement for the award, giving a presentation to teachers about global warming and the benefits of energy conservation. About six students gave the presentation to five teachers after school.

Students asked teachers to read articles about the Chesapeake Bay, encouraged them to keep logs of their own energy use and encouraged them to take steps such as switching to energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, carpooling or taking public transportation when possible, turning off lights when leaving the room and eating organic food.

At one point, teachers were encouraged to fill out a questionnaire on computers in the room. When they were done, some students quickly checked to make sure all the computers had been turned off.

Simons also turned off the overhead projector during brief discussion periods, to save energy. "If everybody here did something little, it would add up to something big," she said.

The teachers got into lively discussions about the pros and cons of push mowers versus riding mowers, and the problem with carpooling.

They said they were happy to learn what they could do to protect the planet. "I've become more and more aware of some of the things Heather's been promoting," said Mike Syran, a special education teacher. "I thought it would be good to attend."

Marcus Hurt, who teaches world history and leadership, agreed. "It's really important that we learn to do this, for our children and the planet," he said.

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