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November 21, 2013

Bellview Elementary kicks off go-green effort

By Kevin Bunch
C & G Staff Writer

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Nathan Garza, a fifth-grader, tosses a plastic bottle into a box during a recycling relay game at Bellview Elementary during the school’s go-green assembly.

EASTPOINTE — The staff and students at Bellview Elementary School kicked off a green initiative at an assembly Nov. 18 and have plans to fit the “three Rs” — reduce, reuse and recycle — into everyday classroom life.

Principal Nichole German said that the school’s teachers were the ones who brought up the idea originally, with fourth-grade teacher Brooke VanRhee being “very instrumental in getting the effort off the ground.”

“Basically, we had a lot of teachers very into recycling, and we had a couple other schools in the district participating on a regular basis,” German said. “We wanted to send the message that it’s important to take care of our Earth.”

VanRhee said she has been recycling for a long time, both inside and outside her classroom, and she learned of the Macomb County Green Schools initiative late last school year. She resolved to bring it up this school year, and she quickly found other interested staff members.

“We all definitely feel the importance in caring about our environment and have made it our mission to get everyone at the building motivated about doing the same,” she said.

VanRhee currently is the chairwoman of the school’s new Go Green Club, which consists of nine teachers. The club is mapping out the school’s activities. She also led the assembly itself, which featured a recycling relay race and an educational game of “Are You Smarter Than a Bellview Shooting Star?”

“What does ‘go green’ mean? Reduce, reuse and recycle are just one thing,” VanRhee said. “We will have a Go Green Club, and right now, it’s just teachers, but we want students. Each room will have a box for paper and plastics to be recycled; there will be a scrap box for scrap paper.”

She also said students who liked drawing could take part in a school poster contest, and those who like music could take this opportunity to write a go-green rap. She also announced plans to plant the school’s first fruit and vegetable garden, a bookmark contest, a recycled art project, and plans to adopt an endangered animal.

Under the Macomb County Green Schools initiative, a school needs 10-14 activities overall per school year to qualify for green status, which is what Bellview’s staff is aiming for, VanRhee said. If a school has 15-19 activities, it qualifies for emerald status, and anything more than that is designated “evergreen.”

German said she also wanted to see the school grounds kept clean by reducing the amount of garbage left there, and she also planned on a flower-planting effort.

The recycling is a major part of the green effort, however, and is something the school has never tried before, German said.

“We have a company coming in and putting in a huge recycling bin,” she said. “They will make sure to clean it out every two weeks — or sooner, if it gets filled up.”

The Macomb Intermediate School District has also been helpful in providing information, German said, and the school has a few other methods of trying to green itself. She said there are lights that will turn themselves on and off, depending on if people are in the room, and there is an effort to reduce the amount of paper towels needed in bathrooms.

VanRhee said the school also has asked staff and students to sign a recycling pledge to go up on a bulletin board in the school hallway.

“With 300-plus of us, the board won’t be able to contain all the pledges, and they’ll spill outside the board,” she said. “I am anticipating that this will have a really cool effect.”

German said the students needed to understand the importance of protecting the Earth’s environment, and she believed the assembly got the message across. The school will be sending home a survey to collect more information on recycling at home.

“I think VanRhee is trying to get the students to create a buy-in, so we have the poster contest and the rap songs to spark interest with the kids,” she said. “Last month, we did an anti-bullying ad, and they really got into it, so it’s just getting that buy-in.”