Bryant School District
Bryant School District
The ultimate goal of this initiative is to develop a curriculum that would enhance the students’ ecoliteracy. The district is building LEED facilities and many felt that those facilities should have an associated curriculum to use in the schools, using the facilities and the surrounding areas to educate students in sustainability while they learned their regular coursework.
In one of the early brainstorm sessions, it was also decided that ecoliteracy should not be limited to just the students who attended the LEED schools, Bethel Middle School and Hurricane Creek Elementary School, but that all Bryant student deserved the chance to improve their future lifestyle through "ecoeductaion".
How we are doing it
A group of volunteer educators began meeting as a team at the beginning of 2008-2009. They are a team of true educational diversity, who not only consist of science teachers pushing ecology, but also classroom teachers ranging Kingergarten to 12th grade, art teachers, music teachers, administrators, and even parent volunteers, each with their own special expertise. The first meetings were dedicated to vision casting and goal setting for the District’s “green curriculum”. From there, they began to develop specific ideas and combine various strategies into a comprehensive education plan for ecoliteracy. The district team researched multiple projects and initiatives from schools across the country, and finally agreed that one of the first projects would be to organize student "green teams" in each elementary school. To begin, they created an application process for each school to use and provided a list of suggested projects for the teams to take on. Each school was encouraged to develop their own plan of action, but the 3 R's - recycle, reuse and reduce - was a common theme for all teams.
Student interns from Bryant High School work regularly with Mrs. Smith on many projects. Currently Leah Chancellor, a senior at Bryant, is a partner with other students from central Arkansas, and have recently been named one of five finalist with Disney for the Talkin Trash project. They have been awarded $25,000 and if their project is chosen as the best of the 5 they will have an additional $25,000 to use for full implementation.
Students have worked on numerous projects ranging from school energy surveys to "trash free" lunch days, to school wide recycling projects, to plant and animal preservation. Several school teams applied for and received grants to install rain gardens and butterfly habitats from the Arkansas Forestry Commission.
What we are learning
The student green teams have seen great success. Dozens of students apply each semester, and teams are being added at the middle school level this year. The high school Ecology club is taking a more active role in campus clean up. They also have a plan to restore the herb garden on campus in order to protect native herbs of Arkansas. Moreover, our team of educators have successfully developed many environmental lessons that were directly tied to the Bryant School District and Arkansas State standards for literacy, math and science. They discovered early on that incorporating ecoliteracy across the curriculum is vital. One cannot expect teachers to teach sustainability lessons in addition to what they already have in their lesson plans. They provided lessons for all subjects and grade levels that would bring green education into the classroom while also helping Bryant teachers achieve their standard goals.
Since making ecoliteracy and green education a goal, Bryant School District has been chosen to partner with Arkansas Audubon and Arkansas Heritage Commission. Together, both groups are educating students of the importance to preserve and protect the native plants and animals of Arkansas. The physics and AP Environmental Science classes will now conduct a study for Mrs. Mary Smith, director of Education for Audubon Arklansas.
The original team of educators that dreamed green for Bryant Schools are thrilled with all the progress that has been made in the District toward Ecoliteracy in just the past year. While teacher and student apathy still proves to be an obstacle, green education leaders and the student green teams themselves, are working to ignite their schools with passion for sustainability. The green team members are undoubtedly on fire, and ovbiously making a significant impact throughout Bryant, Saline County, and even state wide. Thus far, the accomplishments have exceeded all expectations.