Capt. Walter Francis Duke Elementary School was named as a new “green school” this year, Margarita Rochow, environmental educator department of curriculum and instruction, announced at a St. Mary’s school board meeting on Wednesday.
Rochow and Jason Hayes, supervisor of instruction for the public school system, presented on green schools and green centers in the county and the goals the school system has for them.
The Maryland Green Schools Act, which became law July 1, has about $116,000 of grant funding each year for Maryland schools. The grants support environmental education, professional development, transportation to field studies and green school programs. Schools can apply online to be funded for fiscal year 2021.
The application to becoming a state green school and center is a two-year process.
The certification is valid for four years and both centers and schools can apply for a sustainable status two years after recertification.
The Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education reports there are 621 green schools, 42 green centers and over 200,000 student participants in the state. St. Mary’s has 17 green schools and one center including two that are recognized as sustainable — Hollywood and Oakville elementary schools. This year, Mechanicsville Elementary recertified as a green school and Elms Environmental Education Center recertified as a green center.
“I noticed that we have a few that would have qualified for renewal,” Cathy Allen, the board’s vice chair, pointed out. Four of the green schools’ most recent certification is from 2015 or earlier.
The goal of a green center, Rochow said, is to support schools working toward being awarded a green school status. And to recognize and honor a facility’s efforts in implementing environmental education, best management practices and community engagement.
One of the Elms center’s objectives is systemic sustainability, which Rochow said includes promoting the green school program and applicants, providing student programs and providing sustainability practice support and professional development for teachers and staff. Many schools in the county visit the center, located south of Lexington Park, for field trips during the school year.
The second goal for centers and schools is participating in sustainability practices on campus like habitat restoration, solid waste reduction, energy conservation, water conservation and pollution prevention. The third objective is community partnerships, awards and recognition.
“I’d like to think we do a great job working with our partners in the community,” Rochow said.
The goal of the green schools program is to integrate “hands-on, inquiry-based instruction” and to apply their knowledge on sustainability at school, home or in the community Rochnow said.
Board member Rita Weaver asked if Rochnow and her department visit schools to work with teachers on green initiatives. “We are trying to as much as our time and staff involved allows,” Rochnow answered.
Allen thanked Rochnow and Hayes for their presentation. “I think it encourages our students and they can carry it beyond,” the school board said.