Two local schools earn Michigan Green Schools rankings

By: Andy Kozlowski | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published May 9, 2019

 Fourth graders from the class of teacher Ann Farrell show their Michigan Green Schools spirit. Scotch Elementary School was deemed an Evergreen School, which is the highest environmental stewardship designation given by the nonprofit.

Fourth graders from the class of teacher Ann Farrell show their Michigan Green Schools spirit. Scotch Elementary School was deemed an Evergreen School, which is the highest environmental stewardship designation given by the nonprofit.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Lola Morse shows a sign that she made.

Lola Morse shows a sign that she made.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — In our corner of the cosmos, Earth is a miracle of sorts: a perfect storm of factors that allow life to cling to this bright blue marble spinning through space.

It’s a fragile balance — and one that future generations will need to maintain.

To this end, the nonprofit Michigan Green Schools is dedicated to educating kids on the need to protect the air, land and water. And this year it has recognized two schools in the West Bloomfield School District with its environmental stewardship designation.

Scotch Elementary School, 5959 Commerce Road, and Gretchko Elementary School, 5300 Greer Road — both in West Bloomfield Township — have been named an Evergreen School and an Emerald School, respectively.

Scotch Elementary’s Evergreen status denotes 20 or more eco-friendly activities, with at least two in each of the four categories: recycling, energy, environmental protection and miscellaneous. Gretchko Elementary’s Emerald status denotes 15-19 such activities.

Ann Farrell, a fourth-grade teacher at Scotch Elementary, said that her school’s focus is on protecting the environment and how energy works, including renewable and nonrenewable sources.

“This is the fourth consecutive year we were recognized as a Michigan Green School,” Farrell said, noting that Scotch attained Green status (10-14 activities) in 2016, Emerald status in 2017 and Evergreen status in both 2018 and 2019.

“We have worked our way up in status the first three years and are aiming to maintain the highest level, Evergreen, into the future.”

She said many of the school’s activities are now annual occurrences, so the students learn expectations as third graders when they arrive at Scotch. The school includes third grade through fifth grade, as well as a Great Start Readiness Program preschool.

Gretchko supports kindergarten through second grade. The eco-friendly lessons learned there carry over to Scotch.

“Plus, the (Michigan Green School) application encourages new initiatives and ideas, so we are continuously striving to up our game, so to speak, and create fresh approaches to learning about the environment,” Farrell said.

Among the activities at Scotch are recycling paper, plastic, printer cartridges, clothing and markers on a regular basis. The fifth-grade safeties collect and empty recycling bins throughout the school each week. The school has also promoted “Trashless Tuesdays,” when students are asked to bring snack and lunch containers that are reusable or recyclable.

On the topic of energy use, the school purchased nonelectric Green Glove Dryers to dry gloves that get wet during the winter months. DTE Energy was invited to the school to give a presentation called “Think Energy” to the fourth graders. A bottle refill station is maintained.

At press time, the fourth graders were planning to help clean up West Bloomfield’s nature trail sometime this month with the help of a naturalist. The school held a contest during Earth Month, in April, to raise money to sponsor two animals through the Detroit Zoo’s ADOPTS program, which stands for Animals Depend on People to Survive, settling on a sloth and a tiger.

The school organized a book exchange in conjunction with March Is Reading Month, and a representative from the township’s waste hauler, Green for Life Environmental, gave a presentation on the recycling process. The fifth graders created marble maze projects that used repurposed materials to learn about motion and design.

“We feel the lessons were ones that extended beyond the school environment: children teaching their families, benefiting the West Bloomfield community and beyond with the nature trail cleanup and the Detroit Zoo (sponsorship),” Farrell said. “The activities also helped create daily student expectations within the building: Recycle your papers, refill your water bottles, and care for others and the environment.”

At Gretchko, students recharge their electronic devices with a “Rock the Bike” pedal-powered generation station that teaches them energy concepts. The students maintain a hydroponic garden full of flowers and vegetables, learning about environmental protection as they study nutrient levels. The entire school uses the garden to learn about plants and how they grow. The students also maintain aquatic habitats for fish — feeding them, cleaning the tanks and monitoring the water levels.

To top off everything, several classes performed a cleanup on Earth Day, walking around the playground picking up trash. Students also continue to learn how recycling works, with two student ambassadors from each class attending meetings of the Recycling Club and reporting back with what they learn. This could include simple conservation habits like turning off the lights when not in a room, reducing water use when brushing their teeth, and using both sides of a piece of paper. Each class has its own recycling bin that students and staff are encouraged to use daily.

“Students were excited to learn new things and to share their knowledge. They connected with our lessons and the message (of protecting the environment),” said Nicole Risden, a kindergarten teacher at Gretchko. “They understand that they need to take care of the Earth. Gretchko is proud to be recognized as a Green School. Our young students work hard to make our Earth a better place.”

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