Felegy Elementary plants tree as part of green schools initiative
BY SAM STERN — Children at the Edward M. Felegy Elementary School (FES) took a pledge to a living-learning environment curriculum at a tree planting ceremony Nov. 12.
The ceremony, led by assistant principal Ursula Golladay, took place after school, beside the playground and launching point for the green initiative. Students sang songs, joined in planting the ceremonial tree, and recited the FES Green School Pledge that promises awareness and a commitment to protecting natural resources.
“Knowledge of the environment, being able to make good decisions as citizens. It’s not just ‘you should think this way or you should think that way;’ it’s to investigate the various viewpoints and interests and how do we make decisions as a community that can be healthy for the community and the world at large,” said Elizabeth Kraft, an FES English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher.
Planting the tree represents a commitment to become part of the Maryland Green Schools Program. The initiative, founded in 1999, aims to engage children in hands-on lessons that “promote responsible environmental stewardship practices and increase awareness of how our relationship with the environmental ultimately impacts public health and society,” according to the Maryland Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education website.
“We also decided to take on this special project to be green by choice and become certified and to do certain things to show that we care,” said Golladay.
The school is equipped with geo-thermal heating, a vegetative roof and movement-censored lighting in every classroom. “We have this great green building that is LEED certified architecturally, but were a school and a school is a learning community. It’s not enough to have a great building with a green roof and geothermal energy. … We need to have green environmental education programs,” Golladay said.
Kraft said the environmental learning will not be ensconced in a bubble, but applied to many different areas of study. These initiatives hope to weave an awareness of the natural world into each child’s everyday life.
“We are integrating the arts and the environment. One of the things they did as part of this process … last year was we collected all of the milk caps from the tops of the milk bottles and one the art teachers … had the 5th graders design these sculptures of the arts … out of these plastic caps. “
Kraft said this push is not limited to strictly academic interests. She believes this can serve as a community-building function in cities like Hyattsville.
“Another reason this endeavor is very important is that access to the natural environment is very much a social justice issue. … Every child deserves a tree and the joy of running down a hill with the wind in their hair. … This is about bringing it to the children and bringing the children to the environment.”
FES is currently fulfilling the application requirements to become a green school. If the school is selected, the award will last for four years, with future recertification options.
“The journey to becoming a green school teaches our students that they too can make an environmental impact in our world. This initiative encourages them to learn about the role we can play in our environment,” said Golladay.