13 schools complete green challenges

Staff members from six schools were recognized by the county Monday for finishing the first semester of a new green initiative. Pictured with Commissioners Frank Lucchese, Suzie Weirick and Mike Yoder are Maria Garcilazo, Mary Beck Elementary School; Stacey Garrett, Benton Elementary; Danielle Dubash, Goshen High School; Ruth Roth and Lydia Hartman-Keiser, Prairie View Elementary; Sandy Kurtz, Nappanee Elementary; and Tina Green, Northwood Middle School.

GOSHEN — “Green Ambassadors” from six schools were recognized by county officials Monday morning as part of a new program meant to encourage recycling.

Staff members from Mary Beck, Benton, Nappanee and Prairie View elementary schools as well as Goshen High School and NorthWood Middle School each received a check for $1,000 during the Elkhart County Commissioners meeting Monday. It was money they and seven other schools earned by completing challenges in the Green Schools Initiative during the spring semester.

The county developed the program after teaming up with enFocus for a leaf collection contest last year. 

The program was developed by enFocus and funded by the county Solid Waste Management District. In the first year, the program awarded one or two credits, each worth $250, for activities completed by participating schools.

Activities were in the categories of recycling, waste and energy reduction, food waste and composting, and classroom activities and lesson plans. Challenges included forming a Green Team, starting a student recycling club, placing recycling bins in all classrooms, developing curriculum and creating a school-wide compost garden.

All 13 schools installed the classroom bins and almost half started a student club and a teacher Green Team. Mary Beck Elementary was the only one to hold a school-wide recycling drive and Monger Elementary was the only one to hold a school-wide rummage sale.

Sign-ups for the fall semester will open in mid-July, according to enFocus Project Manager Allison Turner. More information is available at elkhartcountyswmd.com/recycling-education

Turner said 17 schools signed up for the pilot program and 13 of those submitted end-of-semester reports. She said they picked the challenges that worked best for their schools and then reported what they did and how it went. 

“It’s really exciting for them because they get money to spend on improvements for their school. It’s really exciting for us because we’re teaching our students about recycling, about waste reduction, and then creating a culture of recycling and waste reduction in our schools,” Turner said. “So it’s not just like a one day, Earth Day lesson type of thing, we’re really building a program here.”

Schools that participated and how they plan to spend the money include:

n Waterford Elementary, which plans to buy two benches

n Prairie View Elementary, which plans to buy garden equipment

n NorthWood Middle, unsure

n Northridge Middle, which plans to help the 8th grade Project Lead The Way engineering class buy material for final projects

n Nappanee Elementary, which plans to buy benches for the playground

n Monger Elementary, which will fund transportation for after-school clubs

n Millersburg Elementary/Middle, which plans to buy gardening and aquaponics equipment 

n Mary Beck Elementary, which plans to buy a bench and recycling container for the playground

n Hawthorne Elementary, which plans to purchase more compost and recycling bins

n Goshen High, which plans to buy benches, a bulletin board and wash station for recyclables

n Concord Intermediate, which plans to use the money for the manufacturing of benches made from plastic caps they also collected

n Bethany Christian, which plans to install more LED lights and solar panels as well as buying equipment for a school garden

n Benton Elementary, which plans to create a Gaga Ball pit

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