Local school, teacher given top awards at Green Schools event

By: Thomas Franz | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published April 26, 2017

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Iroquois Middle School and a teacher at Chippewa Valley High School were recognized with top honors at the ninth annual Macomb County Green Schools celebration April 17.

Iroquois was given the top “Evergreen” school award for Macomb County. Kevin Bai, a physical science teacher at Chippewa, brought home the first-ever “Green Advocate” award for his efforts in promoting a clean environment.

“I was just expecting to bring home an Evergreen award to Chippewa yesterday. To have an additional personal award, I of course feel humbled,” Bai said.

Bai has led Chippewa’s ecology club since 2000, and the school has been a participant in Green Schools since its inception in 2008.

Bai said his inspiration for becoming the school’s green thumb stems from his upbringing with his mother, who was a master gardener. 

“My mom kind of made me invested in this. I grew up gardening alongside with her and I’ve just grown into it. I appreciate being a good steward of the community and looking at ways of how to contribute and help out to be a good citizen,” Bai said. 

When Bai arrived at Chippewa as a teacher, the school’s  ecology club had been inactive for some time. He reactivated it, and it has grown to become the primary landscape team around the campus.

Bai said his group has planted most of the flower beds around entrances to the school and, most recently, completed a red maple garden with 200 plants in front of the school’s pool entrance. 

The group also holds recycling events and a computer recycling drive. Members construct birdhouses, clean up the Clinton River and inform students and teachers in the high school on ways to be more energy-efficient. They have also sent out public addresses on invasive species and how to discard Christmas trees.

“We don’t have any irrigation and we have a crew service that doesn’t do anything but mow lawns and spray weed killer,” Bai said. “Other than that, they really don’t do anything. Nobody cleans up anything, nobody picks up trash, nobody plants anything. It is all done by my ecology club. The entire grounds here at Chippewa Valley, I have taken it on as my own personal responsibility with my eco club.”

At Iroquois, science teacher Jamie Harper has seen her school’s Green Team progress bit by bit to the point where it is now among the best in the county for green initiatives.

The school has gone from being designated as a “Green School,” to “Emerald,” and is now the top “Evergreen School,” which is the top category for achievement in the county.

Schools are placed into the three distinctions based on how many green initiatives they accomplish each year. 

Harper said Iroquois tries to recycle as many things as it can, from paper and juice boxes to batteries and print cartridges. The school also has a composter, and its Green Team has constructed bird feeders and also visits with students from Mohawk Elementary to discuss environmental work. 

“Being a top Evergreen School, we’re excited about that,” Harper said. “The past year, we’ve really tried to step it up.”

Harper has taught at Iroquois for 12 years, and has been the Green Team leader for the past three. She also receives help for the Green Team from teachers Elizabeth Angeleri and Renee Bacon.

“It really has grown in the sense that we started off as a regular Green School, and we finally made it to Evergreen,” Harper said. “Even for our school, we started small but kept building on it. As the years have gone on, we’ve been able to do more things because we have the foundation now.”