Ongoing sustainability efforts at Broad View Elementary started a decade ago as well as new initiatives were recently recognized nationally in the form of the Department of Education Green Ribbon Award.
“We’re just really excited because it’s really amazing when the kids see how invested the teachers and the community are in creating sustainable change in our school to see the kids then take it on themselves,” said Principal Jenny Mouw.
The award recognizes schools that reduce environmental impacts and costs, improve health and wellness and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.
As part of a longstanding program, third- and fourth-grade volunteers go around the school and collect recyclable items from classrooms and ensure they are sorted properly. The school’s waste production is also reduced by a past robotics team that started a composting program in which classes take food scraps from a bin in the cafeteria to a worm bin, where teachers help the students rotate it and use the product to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Mouw said other schools of comparable size produce 18 cubic-yards of garbage per week and Broad View has eight.
“Most of that is recycling, part of it is compost,” she said.
Broad View has a “green team,” made up of third-grade teachers Sarah Hart and Carlene Ogren, PE teacher Sean Beitey, fourth-grade teacher Brandy Ross, librarian Donna Aspery, and former principal Joyce Swanson, that leads sustainability programs within the school.
However, many of the projects are student-led.
Mouw said two years ago a third-grade highly capable class researched the environmental impact of the plastic sporks used in the cafeteria versus what the use of silverware and washing additional dishes would be. The class presented its findings and the school made the switch to silverware based on the evidence.
Oak Harbor Public Schools Superintendent Lance Gibbon said he was impressed with Broad View’s “hands-on, real-world learning.”
“It really represents a school community devoted learning about and applying their learning in the areas of sustainability,” he said of the award. The school is one of 46 schools nationally selected and one of four in Washington state. Broad View applied for the award through the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, which selected the finalists to go to the Department of Education.
The district installed LED lights at the school last year, Mouw said, which combined with teaching students energy-saving behaviors has lowered the facility’s energy use over the last two years despite the addition of four classrooms. Other factors that went into the award include the Broad View’s focus on science, technology, engineering and math and its health and fitness initiatives.
“It’s not like they get the award and the work stops,” Gibbon said. “… I know they will continue to expand opportunities for students. It’ll be fun to see what’s next for them.”