SEVERNA PARK – Federal and state officials visited Folger McKinsey Elementary School in Severna Park Wednesday to witness its efforts to teach students about the environment and reduce its own environmental impact.
Folger McKinsey was recognized as a Green Ribbon school by the U.S. Department of Education in 2012. The award is given to schools working to reduce their environmental impact and provide effective environmental education for students.
The visit is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s second annual nationwide tour of current and former Green Ribbon schools.
The visiting group included officials from the U.S. Department of Education, the Maryland State Board of Education and the Maryland House of Delegates.
The tour began with a performance by the school’s Outdoor Classroom Club, in which students acted out each step in the water cycle.
“The students love it,” Assistant Principal Beth Burke said. “They love showing off what they know.”
Principal Sue Bachmann showed visitors environmental projects that students have been working on. Each grade is assigned an environmental topic, and students work on projects related to the topic throughout the year.
Students in first grade, for example, have planted a butterfly garden in the school’s courtyard, and are using it to learn about local butterfly species. Second-graders and third-graders are working on recycling and composting projects, respectively.
Fourth-graders are focusing on plant identification, using what has been planted in the courtyard. They also design games and activities aimed at teaching younger students about plants.The performance was followed by a tour of the school so officials could visit classrooms where students were learning how to care for the environment.
Kindergarten students learned when they should reduce, reuse or recycle certain types of waste. In teacher Kristin Chappell’s fourth grade class, children used iPads to learn about local butterfly species.
Madhu Sidhu, a member of the Maryland State Board of Education, enjoyed seeing students learning about the environment from a young age.
“The kids are really thinking critically,” Sidhu said. “Even the little ones.”
Principal Bachmann said it’s all part of an effort to give children an appreciation for the environment that they can carry into adulthood.
“If it’s ingrained at a young age, hopefully it will last a lifetime,” Bachmann said.
Folger McKinsey was also recognized for reducing its environmental impact. The school has saved paper by providing textbooks in digital formats, and encouraging students to write on their desks using dry-erase markers.
Andrea Falken, director of the Green Ribbon Schools program, was among the visitors and said that any effort schools can make to save on materials will benefit students.
“Every bit they save on utilities can be used in the classroom,” Falken said.
State and federal officials also planned on visiting Maryland’s other former Green Ribbon schools, including Dunloggin Middle School in Ellicott City and Francis Scott Key Middle School in Silver Spring.