Students in multiple Bloomfield Hills Schools organized, educated, and inspired others to take care of and celebrate the environment as part of the global Earth Day/Earth Week initiative. There were service learning fundraisers for various community causes, huge events to promote environmental education, and small actions by staff and students to increase understanding of environmental issues.
BHHS Environmental Club Raises Awareness and Funds
The BHHS Environmental Club celebrated not just Earth Day, but a whole Earth Week to raise awareness of different earth-related issues. "We started Earth Week last year with the idea was that every day would have a theme," explained senior Isabella Bonito, president of the BHHS Environmental Club. Bonito continued, "On Melting Monday we focus on the issue of climate change and ask students to give ideas of environmental problems which we have here at BHHS. Trash Tuesday looks at the issue of recycling. Water Wednesday educates people on using less bottled water and understanding water pollution. Threatened Thursday involves endangered species, and Flash Friday gives information on renewable energy." The Club used posters, flyers, news articles on a bulletin board in G Wing along with general announcements to bring the environmental message to the student body.
"It's definitely difficult to engage so many students," said Bonito. "We made a lot of posters for Main Commons with some eye-opening facts and included them in each day's morning announcements."
The group encouraged student participation in various environmental awareness activities. Said Bonito, "Each activity and donation got you a ticket where you could win a gift card as an incentive for people to come up to our table at lunch. On Trash Tuesday we offered a mini-recycling quiz. It was interesting to see people's reactions because I think people didn't realize what you can and can't recycle. On Water Wednesday, we had people show us their reusable water bottle for a ticket." Additionally, the Club took donations and sold environmental-themed laptop stickers to raise money for the Surfrider Foundation that coordinates ocean and coastal cleanups.
On Saturday of Earth Week, many of the Environmental Club's 20 active members went to Detroit's Belle Isle and participated in the annual Spring Clean-Up Day with nearly 1,500 other volunteers.
The Club's next plan is to see what ideas from the student body can be implemented. Bonito explained, "We will be meeting with Assistant Principal Mr. Reed-Nordwall so that we can address some of the ideas that students have like getting compost bins, adding recycling bins throughout the building, and getting reusable lunch trays." The Environmental Club meets every other Monday in G219 at 2:45pm and is advised by science teacher Dennis Kwasny.
WHMS Eco-Green Club Makes Outdoor Space More Usable
Sixth-grade students in the West Hills Middle School Eco-Green Club noticed that the outdoor classroom space on the school grounds wasn't being used much. Students brainstormed about several environmental areas before focusing on this space. "The Outdoor Classroom came to my mind because the middle school part of the school doesn't have recess so it's a great time to go outside," said Abdelrahman Ahmed. Ava Moyer concurred, "We have all these different kinds of species outside like milkweed and goldenrod and there are so many species like groundhogs and squirrels that use these plants. If you are sitting outside you can see all these species in the environment, and it's good for the learning process."
The students then gathered data to see if their suspicion was correct. "We took a survey and it showed that people used it between zero and one hours," said Ashan Villavarayan. "It also showed that a top reason that people didn't use it was because it was wet." As a result, the students put together buckets with waterproof blankets, clipboards, and dry erase markers to make it easy and efficient for classes to use the space for learning. "We had a lot of themes and ideas," said Moyer, "but then we had to do some money management and find out what we would spend and what we couldn't spend."
West Hills sixth-grade math teacher Holly Quagliotto advises the Club. "The students met with representatives from the National Wildlife Federation--as well as gardening and recycling experts--to learn how the school and club could support the environment native to our community and its species," Quagliotto detailed. "We labeled plants and explained which species they support. We had our outdoor classroom certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Outdoor Habitat. The Club also participated in recycling and energy saving efforts. Given the efforts of the school, this year West Hills Middle School not only qualified for a Green Schools status, but an Emerald School Status as well."
"I feel like we really did a good job on improving this," Ritvik Sampath said. "Before, across the years, not many people have really looked at it or stepped in it. I think we've really improved the chance that people are going to use it." Shiva Modgil agreed, "We just tried to make it better, so more people would come out."
The students also feel that if their classmates get outside, they are more likely to become just as passionate about the environment. "I feel like it is better for the environment because if you go outside and you see that it is ugly, then you feel like you could help and people want to do it more," Atia Samuel emphasized.
Lone Pine Conducts Earth Day Outdoor Symphony and More
Inspired by the movie "August Rush" where the character hears percussive and symphonic sounds in the city noises around him, students at Lone Pine Elementary School took part in a Playground Symphony to celebrate Earth Week. Students, directed by music teacher Kate Philp, used instruments and found materials in an outdoor celebration of music.
Instruction in the performing arts is vital to a student's education and is an active, experiential process that involves creative problem solving, musical decision-making and risk-taking. Elementary school students in Bloomfield Hills Schools receive dedicated music instruction each week, with additional experiences integrated into the curriculum via interdisciplinary study activities.
Paulina Hakopian, Lone Pine PTO Green Team Chair, reported that there were several other Earth Week-related activities for the student body. "Our Lone Pine Student Student Action Team organized and promoted this year's activities," Hakopian said. "They pursued various environmental issues and presented them to each class. The Student Action Team encourages all buses to turn off their engines while idling whenever possible, especially on Earth Day. Also all children are encouraged to pack a waste-free lunch if possible by using reusable water bottles and biodegradable/reusable lunch packaging products."
Farm Convenes Joint Earth Week Student Project with BHHS Bowers Academy and Science Classes
Bowers Farm mobilized students from BHHS science classes plus students from on-site Bowers Academy to host more than 300 third-grade students from various schools in Oakland County for Earth Week activities. The third-graders were part of Project Red, sponsored by Farm Bureau, which promotes agricultural interests and helps create a better and broader understanding of agriculture in the community.
Alan Jaros, Farm Director, explained the wide-ranging nature of the experience for the students who took part. "We had 14 rotations with all of the 300-plus visiting students split between those rotations. Our AFNR (Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources) BHHS students delivered some of sections. Bowers Academy students handled the section on pollinators," said Jaros.
AFNR students helped the third-graders milk goats and a "cow," plant potatoes and visit a root cellar, explore the hydroponic garden, watch sheep shearing, take a wagon ride, and hold chickens and rabbits before meeting farm celebrity Cinnamon the llama. Bowers students led a pollination game using cheetos and explained fun facts about pollinators. The third-graders were extraordinarily excited about the day's events, doing their best to stay still while touching or holding the various live animals. The visitors remained inquisitive all day, with constant hands raised in the air as AFNR and Bowers students and adult farm personnel were asked detailed questions about the exhibits and experiences.
Bowers Farm also hosted members of the Southeastern Michigan Beekeepers Association (SEMBA) for the event. SEMBA representatives brought a larger display and described how pollinators significantly affect the earth. Jaros was excited to share that Bowers Farm would be contributing to that richer and sustainable environment. "SEMBA has gifted Bowers Farm with 10 pollinator trees that will contribute to saving our bees, butterflies, and other pollinators," Jaros announced.
Eastover Celebrates A Whole Earth Month
The second grade Green Team at Eastover sponsored a pop can drive during the first week of April to fund the adoption of an American Eagle endangered species from the World Wildlife Fund. Visible Thinking and Sustainability Coordinator Jamie Goldschmidt explained, "After conducting research on endangered species, team members created posters and talking points on their chosen endangered species. The second graders presented their endangered species to the entire student body via video, then all Eastover students voted on which species should be adopted." The second graders were in charge of daily pop can collection from the second and third grade classrooms.
The third grade Green Team at Eastover also created a service learning project. The group spent the third week of April promoting a collection drive to repurpose old towels and fleece blankets to donate to a local animal shelter. In addition to a daily classroom collection led by the third graders, boxes were placed around the school for others to make donations.
This year there were 46 Eastover participants in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Earth Day poster contest. Eastover first graders Connor Ealy and Niharika Satish both won Honorable Mention designations. Students in grades kindergarten through 5th were encouraged to submit a creative poster that reflected the principles of Earth Day. The entries by Ealy and Satish were chosen from more than 3,200 submissions.
All month, the entire Eastover Green Team also collected old crayons and dried out markers to be sent back to the Crayola company for recycling.
Once the weather got a bit better, the DHH Students helped clean up the Sensory Garden in the Eastover courtyard. Additionally, community members and Eastover students from Cub Scout pack 1014 and Daisy Troop 76999 did a remarkable job with a spring clean up of the school grounds. They picked up all the trash on the entire property including the woods, cleaned the flower gardens, cleaned the parking lot, and picked up sticks from the front lawn.
EHMS DHH Students To Be Certified as Junior Master Gardeners
Students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) classes at East Hills have been partnering with Michigan State University's Agriculture Department this school year. "It has been an awesome experience for our students," said Cheryl Ulciny, East Hills DHH teacher. The mission of the MSU Project Green Outreach Program is to educate students about the career opportunities and basic areas of agriculture. "Upon completion of this program in May," Ulciny explained, "all the students will receive a Junior Master Gardener Certificate of Completion! How exciting is that?!"