Imagine, if you would, a small group of energetic students desperately trying to find a way to make a difference in their school with little to no success. Imagine also, a teacher, COVID-exhausted and pivoting, trying even more desperately to find something to get her students excited again about learning, learning which is fulfilling and meaningful. Something, in fact, that would be lasting, that future students could continue to engage with, that could shift and change in coming years and that would provide a way for students to make a real difference. When Lyons Middle School teacher Leonore Enfield found the Kansas Green Schools program and the Virtual Academy, she knew she may have just found the key to these challenges.
Leonore and her students formed a Green Team at Lyons Middle School, a team Leonore describes as, “ very motivated and energetic” and already they’ve made a huge difference. As teacher leader Leonore describes,”we began by taking our small group of energetic change-makers and assigning them as the Green Team Leaders. They then spent several weeks recruiting Green Team members from the student body, staff, parents and community members. We currently have four Green Team Leaders, fifteen Green Team student members, eight Green Team faculty and staff members, and nine Green Team parent and community members. These various Green Team members have all helped us to be able to successfully complete the Waste Investigation at our school.”
During the Waste Investigation, the Green Team was able to research the different types of waste produced by schools in general, follow the designated Green Schools' investigation to determine what types of waste Lyons Middle School produced, sort the waste into categories and weigh the waste in each category to look for trends and potential ways to minimize their waste. Together, the Lyons Middle School Green Team was able to carry out a school wide waste evaluation. The Green Team also looked at classroom waste and the 7th grade Science classes volunteered to be the ones to sort and catalog the classroom waste data. With waste data from the school and the individual classrooms, the Green Team was able to determine that a high enough percentage of the waste created was compostable that a solution needed to be found. They also discovered that an existing group of students were willing to continue to collect recyclable waste, but that unfortunately, a lot of waste that could be recycled wasn’t making it into the recycle bins and a good amount of recyclable waste wound up in the trash.
The Green Team began to think of creative solutions to the challenges they found. For instance, to curb the misplacement of recyclable waste, the Green Team is implementing a classroom competition that will reward the classroom with the least amount of trash. Lyons Middle School custodial staff has agreed to be the judges of this competition since they are the ones that collect the trash each day. Another solution proposed by the Green Team to lower the school’s waste footprint is the creation and use of a compost bin. Green Team plans include placing a compost bin adjacent to the cafeteria and using the compost created in a school garden this coming year. WILD, Lyons Middle School’s outdoors club, which was started two years ago, is developing a plan to put a raised bed “Kitchen” Garden in the raised curb area of the parking lot. This location is close to the kitchen and make use of a presently unused weedy space. Additional plans include collaborating with the kitchen staff to find out what herbs, Spring/Fall lettuces, and other produce they would be able to use before the WILD club finalizes what will be planted. The WILD club has also committed to making a schedule for who will tend it the garden, when and how often as well as planning for getting the supplies to build and maintain the garden space.
Leonore Enfield notes the impact this has had on her students and the school, “This year, the Green Team has been such a uniting factor in the ever-changing landscape of our school. Our students have something consistent to look forward to, something tangible to hold on to, and something to constantly dream about. This semester we are doing the Water Investigation. We are actually more excited to do this investigation because we just experienced a water crisis in our town in November. Eleven main pipes burst and broke water lines throughout the town. Instead of being an overnight fix, the city was without water for at least three days, and in some areas more. This experience has really made the Green Team think about the importance of water and water quality issues. They are eager to discover why our water tastes worse now than it did before the water crisis happened. We are all excited to be moving forward and to also be submitting for recognition as a Kansas Green School of Excellence at the end of the Spring Semester.” For their work to lead the way for greener and healthier schools, KACEE is pleased to present the 2022 Kansas Green School of the Year Award to Lyons Middle School.
Kansas Green School of the Year Awards
These awards recognize Kansas public and private schools that have demonstrated innovation, leadership, whole school involvement, and an integrated, holistic, sustainable approach to implementing environmental projects with a strong environmental education component into their schools.