by Upper School teacher Tina Morris
This year has zipped by so fast that we haven’t had much time to reflect on or share all the sustainability projects we have been doing at Pike. Because it is woven into the fabric of our community and impacts students, staff, faculty and parents in varied and subtle ways, sustainability has a double-edged dilemma: while it is a part of everybody’s daily life, it also can seem quite invisible. Pike’s mission is to encourage students to be responsible global citizens, and their knowledge and stewardship of the environment is an essential part of this. Our questions every year are how do we know if we are succeeding?
There are some benchmarks we can use along the way. When a Pike student comes home and…
- puts the newspaper in the recycling bin instead of the trash
- asks if they can dig a garden in the backyard
- wants to start a compost pile
- shows interest in where their food comes from
- seems more aware of their use of heat, air conditioning, lights or water
- wants to discuss climate change
- is concerned about the plight of the penguins or tigers or other threatened wildlife
- tells you they measured tree growth out in the woods today,
- wants to share the poems they wrote about the nature trail
- tells you about their solar car project
- shows you their posters for the Arbor Day art contest
- discusses how many miles they have walked, or which national park has been reached in the Pike Trail Challenge,
- notices the bees and butterflies outside the kitchen window
- or merely asks you to go for a walk outside
… then they are demonstrating their awareness of the world around them. They are venturing beyond their inside worlds and appreciating the wonders of the outdoors.
Environmental literacy has developed a strong foothold in our Pre-K to 9 curricula, even though, admittedly, we still have a distance to go. As teachers, we need to remind ourselves of ways we can include and integrate the environment into our social studies, language arts, foreign language, and math classes, as well as into our science lessons. Humans’ reliance on their environment and its resources has driven history through the ages, has inspired poets and novelists, has contributed to the creative world of the visual and performing arts, and has been the source for many math concepts based on nature’s patterns.
This year we have migrated from the basic programs of sustainability — recycling and composting, gardening, walking the trail – to finding more ways to foster awareness in the community. Several projects have been launched to call attention to the environment and to involve the students more in the process.
- In collaboration with Community Life and the Parents Association, we now have green plants in the public spaces of the school, a visible reminder that our indoors is connected to our outside world.
- Big Green, the Upper School environmental club, held a logo contest for new and improved reusable water bottles that will be given to the 7th grade in thanks for their composting and recycling contributions over the past 2 years.
- In art, sixth graders made sculptures out of recycled materials that will be displayed at the art show. Fifth graders entered a poster contest sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation.
- Electives in the Upper School included a winter nature study on the trail, creative writing on the trail, Green Scholar projects, a recycled art project using plastic grocery bags, and many others.
- Third grade celebrated their trout project with their Fish Festival last week, an extravaganza of games, posters, books, etc. to teach the rest of us about fish and their importance.
- At each division’s assembly, Big Green students gave presentations on the National Park Trail Challenge, the threats to bees, deforestation, water resources, use of reusable water bottles, and the Print Relief program (our latest software program that is helping us save paper and plant trees in countries with rainforests like the Dominican Republic, Madagascar and Brazil.)
- In late April, Earth Day was celebrated by the entire community as part of our Buddy Program. One group (Gr. 1, 5 and 7) walked the trail for the Trail Challenge, another (Gr. K, 3 and 6) painted “kindness rocks” and distributed them throughout the trail, and a third (Gr. 2. 4 and 8) wrote letters to the Massachusetts legislature, asking them to lift the existing cap on solar energy so Pike could proceed with our own solar project. Second graders even made “Go Solar” buttons for the legislators to wear!
- We spread the word beyond Pike this year with presentations at two conferences – in Litchfield, CT with the New England Environmental Education Association and in Worcester, MA with the Massachusetts Environmental Education Association — to share our sustainability experiences to help other schools who are just beginning their process of going green.
The nature trail continues to be a focal point of our environmental literacy program. Although more teachers and students are using it consistently, we have felt the need to advertise the trail to our visitors as well. The Parents Association generously donated to the construction of an information kiosk at the front entrance that can introduce people to the trail and to the sustainability program as a whole.
Last spring the Sustainability Committee chose the ‘Year of Permeation’ as its main theme for 2016-2017 in the hope that more student involvement and greater outreach into all the facets of the community would give the sustainability initiative a more visible face in school. Based on the above accomplishments, it seems that we are making good headway.
The Pike School is an independent, coed, day school for Pre-K through ninth grade in Andover, Massachusetts. Visit pikeschool.org to learn more about Pike – and visit our blog for more thought leadership. To learn more about admission to The Pike School, visit our Admission page.