Going green: Flag honors Carver garden efforts
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.”
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.