Kudos to the students and staffs at several Baltimore County public and private schools --- Dundalk Elementary, Franklin Middle, Jacksonville Elementary, Norwood Elementary, Pot Spring Elementary, the Rosedale School, and the Odyssey School --- that are the most recent to join a growing list of "Green Schools" by learning and engaging in activities that help preserve the environment.
The county leads the state in the number of "Green Schools," with 42 of them, according to county, school and community leaders who gathered in the garden at the Old Courthouse in Towson. Also recognized were two "Green Centers" that were added to the list --- Marshy Point Nature Center and the Herring Run Watershed Association --- for their environmental education efforts.
"Baltimore County truly is a model for the rest of the state," said Carol Towle, who is the Green School coordinator for the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education.
Since 1999, the nonprofit organization annually has recognized schools and centers for their efforts to teach children about the importance of protecting the environment. In that time, Baltimore County students have completed 650 projects, including tree plantings, recycling and pollution prevention.
Towle said the commitment of the county's schools demonstrates "the importance of having our young people accept the responsibility of preserving our planet."
MAEOE looks for examples of schools that tie the environmental lessons to the classroom --- such as incorporating math, English and reading skills into their projects.
For instance, at Pot Spring Elementary in Timonium (home to 580 children in pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade), students and staff built a 200-foot long lawn sculpture made of 500 recycled laundry detergent bottles as a show of how to "reuse" things. All of the school's children were involved --- including pre-kindergartners and kindergartners, who helped by sorting the bottles by color. Kids in other grades handled tasks such as cutting string to certain lengths.
"Every student tied a bottle to the sculpture," said Karen Harris, the school's principal.
Examples of projects from the other schools include:
* Students from the Rosedale School planted 600 trees at Fleming Park in Dundalk to help reduce erosion and improve water quality, and planted more than 200 trees to reforest areas near Peerce's Plantation. To reduce energy loss through "phantom," or hidden usage, the school installed power strips so computers could be turned off completely at the end of the day.
* At Franklin Middle, students collected and recycled more than 75 pounds of batteries. They took old furniture that was heading to the trash and refurbished it and sold it at an auction.
* Working to improve indoor air quality at Jacksonville Elementary, a team of "I Spy Inspectors" looked for blocked air vents, dirty filters and mold.
* Students at Norwood Elementary worked with an arborist to select trees to plant on one side of the building. The trees provide wildlife habitat and shade for classrooms.
* At Dundalk Elementary, fifth-graders wrote, illustrated and printed a book about the Chesapeake Bay that is used in the school's library as a reference text. They also worked with carpentry students from Sollers Point High School to build and install bluebird boxes.
* Students at the Odyssey School built, maintained and monitored a bluebird trail and bird feeding stations. They also designed, built and test solar cookers.
For a complete list of projects and previously named schools and centers, visit the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education's Web site.