Green in Action Winner
Mendham Township Elementary School
Morristown, NJMendham Township Elementary School’s 3rd Grade Green Team has a yearlong initiative to help students recognize the importance of protecting the Earth and its valuable resources. Students are taught to reduce, reuse, and recycle materials in the classroom, with hope that their behaviors extend to their homes.
At the start of the school year, third grade students pledge to “go green” by changing habits that harm the Earth. For example, students choose to write on both sides of paper, recycle paper and plastic, or reuse bottle caps for games and art projects. In addition, each third grade class pledges to use reusable dishes, utensils, cups, and napkins throughout the school year for classroom celebrations. The products used are tallied on graphs, so students can see how much trash is saved from entering landfills as a result of their efforts.
Also in September, students are taught about the problems of using plastic bags. They are educated on how plastic bags pollute the ocean and harm sea life. Students are challenged to no longer use plastic bags for storing reading books, as they have done in previous years. Instead they are provided with reusable cloth bags to store reading materials.
As the year progresses, students continue to study the impact of humans on the environment by studying endangered species, rainforest destruction, waste management, and organic gardening. These topics are integrated into the third grade science and social studies curriculum, as well as into enrichment programs.
In April, third graders celebrate “going green” at an all-day event known as “Green Day.” The day begins with a celebration of their green efforts and an invitation to learn more on how to protect the environment. Several environmental workshops are offered to students on topics such as honeybees, bats, oil spills, native vs. invasive plants, and environmental writing. The day ends with a closing ceremony that involves vanilla ice cream topped with maple syrup. The maple syrup is made by a group of third grade students, who tap trees in March.
A highlight of Green Day is the waste-free picnic lunch. Students (and parents) are challenged to pack lunches that do not have any trash. Snacks are brought in reusable containers, napkins are made of cloth, and water bottles are refillable. After successfully meeting this challenge, students often choose to continue bringing waste-free lunches to school, and they are very proud to do so.
At the end of the school year, the students attend a field trip at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. In addition to studying animal behavior and habitats, the students are challenged to analyze the zoo to determine whether the Wildlife Conservation Society is fulfilling their mission of saving wildlife and wild places, changing people’s attitudes towards nature, and helping people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. By inspecting signs and studying animal enclosures, students decide whether the organization is accomplishing their goals. Essays are later written by the students to express their opinions and provide supporting evidence from their trip. The goal of the Third Grade Green Team is to raise awareness of the Earth’s problems and encourage students to take action. From these third grade experiences, we hope students continue to make choices that will ultimately save the Earth.