From left, Schalm Elementary School first-graders Jack Haskey, Ja’Nylah Fleminger, Griffin Anderson and Addie Reynolds sit around their classroom compost bin.

From left, Schalm Elementary School first-graders Jack Haskey, Ja’Nylah Fleminger, Griffin Anderson and Addie Reynolds sit around their classroom compost bin.

Photo provided by Marji Oberer

Clawson schools recognized for environmental excellence

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published May 15, 2018

CLAWSON — All four Clawson schools in the Clawson Public Schools district, as well as the independent Japhet School, recently received nods from Michigan Green Schools.

To become a Michigan Green School, applicants must show different ways that the schools reduce waste, increase recycling, save energy and naturally beautify their campuses.

The highest rank is “evergreen” for schools that achieve all 20 of the listed activities to become a Michigan Green School, followed by “emerald” for schools that achieve 15 of the 20 activities, then “green” for schools that achieve 10 of the 20 activities.

Schalm Elementary School and Japhet School both achieved “evergreen” status. Kenwood Elementary School and Clawson High School both achieved the “emerald” distinction, and Clawson Middle School was named a “green” school.

Marji Oberer, a first-grade teacher at Schalm Elementary and Michigan Green Schools coordinator, said that this was the school’s ninth year participating in the program.

She said the first-grade class made a compost bin with real worms, and that the students toss in their biodegradable materials from lunches or snacks, such as orange peels or apple cores. The students will use the compost in a flower bed at the end of the school year.

“We recycle a lot of things. Each classroom has at least one, maybe two bins for paper, and everyone else has a bin for plastic — any plastic bottles or plastic containers from snacks,” Oberer said. “We recycle markers — we send them back in to Crayola and a reverse process turns them into fuel.”

She said that the school has a clothing bin to collect donations for the Disabled American Veterans, as well as an electronics recycling bin so that the public can drop off cellphones and other technology.

Fourth-graders, she said, heard a presentation from DTE Energy and received home energy kits to audit their families’ energy use; third-graders learned about invasive species in the Great Lakes and how to prevent their spread; and kindergarteners completed a transportation unit about alternative energy sources to power homemade cars, and they will install a butterfly garden.

Districtwide, all computers shut off at 8 p.m. automatically, and the students at Schalm virtually adopted a wolf through the National Wildlife Federation, she said.

“The kids love it. They get so excited in our class about recycling and talking about Earth Day, and they police each other. That’s how much they care,” Oberer said. “I think it helps make them aware of what they can do to make the world a better place.”

Superintendent Monique Beels said she was excited and proud of the district, especially as a former science teacher.

“We have some really motivated and excited teachers,” Beels said. “It’s important that we help kids understand they can make a difference, even in their own home.”

Betsy Stecker, communications director and registrar for Japhet School, credited Pam Mazurkiewicz, the school’s librarian and reading specialist, for spearheading the Michigan Green Schools initiative. Stecker said the school has been named a Michigan Green School for the last 10 years, and for nine of those it received “evergreen” status.

“We talked about green inventions and solar cooking. We’re participating in the Greening of Detroit,” Stecker said. “We’re also very proud to have a woody part of our playground, which includes pine trees and natural boulders and is purposefully maintained for them to play in nature.”

She said that students use recycled and repurposed art materials, build awareness about waste-free lunches, and engage in an eco-reading program focused on books about environmental awareness.

“Our recycling program is also managed by students,” Stecker said. “All students in primary through the upper class have a part in getting recyclables out of the building.”

Japhet School, she said, continues to improve its lighting through smart lights or high-efficiency bulbs and also established gardens full of native plants.

“The children love to do this. The students care very much,” she said. “We’re pleased (to have achieved the “evergreen” rank) and we plan to continue to be green, with or without an award program.”

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