September 24, 2013 > Going Green
By Simmone Shah
Sunol Glen Elementary is changing the way their students view the environment, teaching kids self-sufficiency at a young age by creating an outdoor garden and a recycling project for the children to manage. Run by a handful of parents and community volunteers, the project aims to educate students about the world around them. By tending a garden, students learn what goes into the produce they eat and the process of growing the fruits and vegetables they find in their homes. The recycling program teaches kids the importance of conserving our resources by recycling, and how to help reduce pollution and the amount of waste going into our landfills.
Fully functioning, Sunol GlenÕs outdoor garden is more than just a small patch of veggies; it is filled with plant life including sunflowers, lavender, tomatoes, and bell peppers. The garden is even complete with an irrigation system, three chickens, a shed filled with supplies, and its own compost system. Younger grades learn about animals, seeds, and crops, while older grades study more specialized topics. Last year, 5th graders studied and grew an ancient grain called amaranth while 7th graders planted some of the plants native to Sunol around the school. After tending the plants for a year, students gather the crops for a school-wide harvest outdoor picnic.
In addition to the garden, Sunol Glen runs a recycling program; engaging both students and parents at home to do their part to help the environment. Intending to encourage children to take what they learn at school and apply it at home, each month students are asked to turn in recyclables such as plastics and aluminum cans from home, while the class with the most recyclables turned in receives a prize. Income from recycling is used to support the program.
New reusable containers for the students are given out during Earth Week. Kindra Mendall and Suz Naone are coordinators of the outdoor garden project. Ms. Mendall states, ÒPurchasing reusable lunch containers was a key piece of the recycle program, so students could work to create less waste on a daily basis.Ó
By offering students the unique opportunity to create something they are proud of, Sunol Glen is instilling values and creating skills that will last a lifetime. At the harvest party, held at the end of the year, the students begin to understand how many hours are required to bring the fruits and vegetables they eat to the table, and end up with a sense of pride knowing they brought it there. Respect for the lengthy process, hopefully encourages them to waste less food.
When students receive their reusable lunch containers, it persuades them to do their part to create less waste every day. ÒThis understanding will hopefully help nourish a view of the world that is larger than just their household,Ó says co-coordinator Ms. Naone. ÒWe hope that education in these areas will not only enrich their lives but also help them to be conscientious citizens.Ó