Pembroke Elementary School fourth graders Scotlyn McDonald, 9, and Mollie Meister, 9, accompanied by Vickie Muir, search for the anaerobic digester, which converts animal waste into energy, at the Detroit Zoo April 23. Pembroke Elementary is located in Troy.

Pembroke Elementary School fourth graders Scotlyn McDonald, 9, and Mollie Meister, 9, accompanied by Vickie Muir, search for the anaerobic digester, which converts animal waste into energy, at the Detroit Zoo April 23. Pembroke Elementary is located in Troy.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Oakland County Green School awards shift to Detroit Zoo

In all, 138 schools receive honors

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published April 30, 2019

 From left, Upton Elementary School fifth grade Eco  Club members Fionna Xhemali, 11; Alexis  Zimny, 10;  Jasmine  Chesterfield, 10; Belle Wadle, 10; Shania Scott, 10; and fifth grade teacher and club  adviser Jennifer  Vanevery pose with a polar bear statue  at the Detroit Zoo April 23.

From left, Upton Elementary School fifth grade Eco Club members Fionna Xhemali, 11; Alexis Zimny, 10; Jasmine Chesterfield, 10; Belle Wadle, 10; Shania Scott, 10; and fifth grade teacher and club adviser Jennifer Vanevery pose with a polar bear statue at the Detroit Zoo April 23.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

ROYAL OAK — In an effort to rejuvenate its 11th annual Michigan Green Schools awards ceremony, Oakland Schools and Oakland County government opted to move the event to the Detroit Zoo — which offers its own extensive green initiatives — and make a day of it April 23.

In Oakland County, 138 schools achieved green, emerald or evergreen status for their students’ efforts to increase environmental stewardship.

Of those, 27 earned green status, 31 emerald status and 80 evergreen status.

The four categories of activities for official Green School qualification are reduce/reuse/recycle, energy, environmental protection and miscellaneous.

Green schools must conduct 10 activities with at least two from each of the four categories; emerald schools must complete 15 activities with at least two from each of the four categories; and evergreen schools must do 20 activities with at least two activities from each of the four categories.

Several hundred students, teachers, parents and staff from participating Oakland County Green Schools gathered in a large pavilion at the zoo.

“Together, all of you have been participating in more than 2,300 recycling, energy saving and other environmental activities. That’s tremendous,” said Michael Yocum, assistant superintendent of educational services for Oakland Schools.

Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash addressed the crowd from the front of the pavilion to stress conservation efforts.

“We’re teaching our future generations that they are facing a lot of environmental issues, and you’re participating by making sure you understand we have to save energy. We have to make sure what my generation has left, you guys are going to have to clean up,” Nash said. “We have a lot to do. This is the perfect venue for this because the zoo believes in sustainability, and Green Schools is all about sustainability.”

Kathy Klein, with event sponsor Waste Management, emphasized recycling.

“You don’t want to be a wishcycler,” Klein said. “Wishcyclers put things in (recycling bins) that they hope someone will recycle, and that creates contamination, which adds cost to the whole effort to recycle, so be good recyclers and follow your guidelines.”

To find your community’s recycling guidelines, visit www.soccra recycling.org or look up your community’s regional recycling authority.

Whitney Calio, principal planner for Oakland County, said she was thrilled to see so many young faces gathered at the zoo.

“That was our hope as we brought the ceremony to the zoo, that we would get more students engaged and (it would be) kind of a reward for all of those green efforts that you have been doing this year,” she said. “Each year, we receive so many great applications for the Green Schools program, and we have the difficult task of selecting one school from each of three categories that we feel did a little bit more and stood out from the other applications.”

Adams High School, of Rochester Community Schools, won in the evergreen category; Woodland Elementary, of the Avondale School District, won in the emerald category; and Kingsbury Country Day School, of Oxford, won in the green category.

Some of the projects Green Schools engaged in during the 2018-19 school year included lights-off Fridays, family carpools, nature hikes, pond dipping, maple tree tapping, bird feeders, recycling programs, water bottle refilling stations and community gardens.

In the Royal Oak Review’s coverage area, Royal Oak Schools evergreen schools included Addams Elementary, Keller Elementary, Northwood Elementary, Oak Ridge Elementary and Oakland Elementary; green status schools included Upton Elementary, Royal Oak Middle School and Royal Oak High School.

Clawson Public Schools evergreen schools included Kenwood Elementary and Schalm Elementary; Clawson High School was an emerald status school; and Clawson Middle School was a green status school.

Upton Elementary fifth grade teacher and Eco Club adviser Jennifer Vanevery brought a group of five Eco Club fifth graders to the zoo — Fionna Xhemali, 11; Alexis Zimny, 10; Jasmine Chesterfield, 10; Belle Wadle, 10; and Shania Scott, 10.

This school year was the first year the Eco Club launched. It has already been making strides to make the school a greener place. So far, the club has crafted decorative buttons out of bottle caps. It also plans to plant a garden with native species — specifically those that attract butterflies, since the first grade classes at the school are working on a butterfly-hatching project — as well as bring recycling bins into the lunchroom.

This school year, the entire Royal Oak Schools district moved from styrofoam trays to biodegradable cardboard trays, Vanevery said.

“We love it. It’s great to be helping the Earth, and we get to come here too,” Chesterfield said. She added that she has made the switch from using single-use plastic cutlery to metal silverware.

Wadle said she is excited about starting the garden at the school and that, since joining her school’s Eco Club, she has begun taking shorter showers to conserve water.

Scott said the club recently did an activity listing “sad Earth” and “happy Earth” activities. Sad Earth contributions included not conserving water and littering, while happy Earth contributions included recycling, conserving water and not using plastic straws, she said.

For a complete list of the Oakland County schools that were recognized, visit www.oakland.k12.mi.us/michgreenschools. For more information about Michigan Green Schools, visit www.michigangreen schools.us.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.