Royal Oak, Clawson schools honored for green practices

By: Heidi Roman | Royal Oak Review | Published June 8, 2011

 Schalm Elementary School students Jacob Pfaff, Josephina Ramon, Parker Twydell and Charlotte Verner show off some of the projects the Clawson school has taken on in order to achieve Michigan Green School status.

Schalm Elementary School students Jacob Pfaff, Josephina Ramon, Parker Twydell and Charlotte Verner show off some of the projects the Clawson school has taken on in order to achieve Michigan Green School status.

Advertisement

CLAWSON/ROYAL OAK — It’s easy being green, if you ask students at schools in Royal Oak and Clawson who were recently honored for their environmental consciousness.

Two Royal Oak Neighborhood Schools buildings were named first and second best in the county in the OakGreen challenge. In Clawson, Schalm Elementary School achieved Michigan Green School status for the first time in the district’s history.

“Last year we decided that we wanted to try to become a green school,” said Schalm Elementary School first-grade teacher Marji Oberer. “We voted on the things we thought we could do that were doable for us.”

Schalm Elementary already had a recycling program in place, but has added a magazine recycling program, adopted an animal at the Detroit Zoo and worked on projects in classrooms that encourage Earth awareness.

“The kindergartners made birdhouses that we have hanging outside,” Oberer said. “As soon as the weather gets nice, we are going to do a solar cookout, making solar cookers out of pizza boxes. We’re getting those all good-to-go so on a sunny day we can work that into our schedule.”

The school has a special flag hanging in the office now to boast its green status, and Oberer hopes to pursue more projects in the future.

“The kids are excited about it,” she said. “I think as we take on more things, we’d like to move on to the Emerald and Evergreen status, which are the next levels. We’d like to try to accomplish that.”

In 2010, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson challenged schools, businesses and residents in the county to reduce their energy consumption by 10 percent by the end of 2012. As part of that, more than 190 schools competed to become top in environmental responsibility.

Helen Keller Elementary and Royal Oak Middle schools won first and second place.

Keller Elementary School has been living and breathing green ideas for about four years now, said Principal John Houghton. The school was certified as a 2011-2012 Evergreen school by the county, which is the highest level in the program.

It also received the Oakland County Green School Excellence Award, and was the only building in the county to get the award, Houghton said. The designation means the school incorporates sustainability into everyday habits.

“We started (in 2007) with a mentality of being green, and at that time we were a candidate to become an International Baccalaureate Primary Years School,” Houghton said. That program includes a unit about sharing the planet and the finite resources on the planet.

“Right from the beginning we were working on that thematic unit in kindergarten through sixth-grade,” Houghton said.

The students and staff have more than 15 different ongoing initiatives that demonstrate their commitment to the environment, he said. That includes recycling paper, “no idling” signs posted in the parking lot, composting, adopting an endangered animal and inviting guest speakers to talk about the environment, among other things. On Wednesdays, parents are encouraged to pack waste-free lunches for their children.

“We’re asking kids to think about the finite resources and how these things have to be made use of,” Houghton said. “They have to be available for everyone.”

Some green initiatives were undertaken by the district, including motion sensors on water faucets and the use of environmentally friendly cleaning products.

Royal Oak Middle School also practices many of those green habits, but also tends a garden with birdhouses and native Michigan flowers, and keeps a food bank garden watered and weeded, donating the produce.

The awards were presented to the schools May 25. Each building achieving green status received a flag and a certificate signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.
 

Advertisement