Go­ing green: Flag hon­ors Carver gar­den ef­forts

Yuma Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BY AMY CRAW­FORD SUN STAFF WRITER

If stu­dents at G.W. Carver El­e­men­tary School seem a lit­tle “green around the gills” it’s not be­cause they’re nau­se­ated.

In fact, they could be de­scribed as quite the op­po­site — and they might of­fer you some kind of green veg­etable to chew that thought with.

That’s be­cause the school has earned the high­est honor from the Na­tional Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion’s EcoS­chool Pro­gram — the Green Flag Award.

“It’s a pretty high honor,” said third-grade teacher An­drea Sinks, who sits on Carver’s Eco-Ac­tion Team and helps co­or­di­nate the school’s gar­den­ing ef­forts.

“The Eco-Schools Pro­gram is de­signed to bring to­gether ma­jor com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers to learn with each other and em­power stu­dents to make mea­sur­able im­prove­ments in en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions,” said Jennifer Dowd, the K-12 Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Man­ager for the Na­tional Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion.

The NWF pro­gram is in more than 60 coun­tries with ap­prox­i­mately 50,000 schools par­tic­i­pat­ing. Carver is the 139th school in the U.S. to meet the rig­or­ous cri­te­ria to earn the dis­tinc­tion, Dowd said.

“Carver is such an in­spir­ing school and stands out as a na­tional ex­em­plar,” she said in an email to the Yuma Sun.

Over the past sev­eral years, stu­dents have com­pleted three en­vi­ron­men­tal path­way au­dits, said Prin­ci­pal Deb Drys­dale: one in en­ergy, an­other in con­sump­tion and waste; and an­other in sus­tain­able foods.

The cam­pus has a re­cy­cling pro­gram, the sus­tain­able food gar­den in raised beds east of the school near the canal, a school­yard habi­tat (com­plete with fairy gar­den, bird­houses, etc.), and has done en­ergy walk­throughs to see where sav­ings and con­ser­va­tion could take place.

Jan­i­tors and stu­dents col­lect waste and re­cy­cled items twice a week, and the bags are weighed and data col­lected. In­for­ma­tion about how much is wasted or re­cy­cled is shared over the school com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work so that stu­dents stay mo­ti­vated, the school said in its ap­pli­ca­tion.

Drys­dale said the school has many com­mu­nity part­ners in the

pro­gram, in­clud­ing Gen­eral Mo­tors Yuma Prov­ing Ground Test Track, the Pe­can Grove Gar­den Club, the Univer­sity of Ari­zona agri­cul­ture stu­dents and Mas­ter Gar­den­ers, the Na­tive Seed So­ci­ety, and lo­cal re­tail­ers, in­clud­ing Wal­mart.

“(Be­ing an Eco-School has) re­ally changed the cul­ture

of our stu­dents,” Sinks said. “They are re­ally into what can be re­cy­cled and what can’t. And know­ing the healthy foods and how to grow them. They just en­joy­ing be­ing out­side in the gar­den and things like that.”

Af­ter the cer­e­mony, Drys­dale, Sinks and EcoS­chool co­or­di­na­tor Leticia Anaya were ob­serv­ing the front yard of the school, where 460 stu­dents had

just tramped back into the build­ing af­ter watch­ing their green flag go up the flag­pole.

“You know, it was such a beau­ti­ful event this morn­ing. I’m sit­ting here think­ing, why don’t we do this more of­ten, this is such a beau­ti­ful site. We have a beau­ti­ful front yard,” Drys­dale mused, which led to a dis­cus­sion of the front-yard gar­den­ing trend in ur­ban ar­eas.

Sinks noted that her ju­nior mas­ter gar­dener stu­dent had sug­gested some spruc­ing up in the front ar­eas of the school.

“He asked if we could plant some­thing here. He thinks it’s too brown,” Sinks told Drys­dale, whose eyes glanced around in pos­si­bil­ity.

“It’s com­ing from the kids,” Anaya said. “That’s all they talk about is what are we plant­ing next.”

Buy this photo at Yu­maSun.com PHOTO BY AMY CRAW­FORD/YUMA SUN

ECO-SCHOOLS USA CO­OR­DI­NA­TOR LETICIA ANAYA talks to stu­dents about their ac­com­plish­ment in earn­ing the Green Flag Award from the Na­tional Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion on Tues­day morn­ing at G.W. Carver El­e­men­tary School. The school is the first one in Ari­zona to earn the dis­tinc­tion from the agency.

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