District hosts guests interested in green education

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Representatives from Genesee Community Charter School in Rochester, N.Y. visited Park Elementary and Kromrey Middle School on Tuesday, Jan. 19 to learn more about best practices in sustainability.

The school, which is open to students in kindergarten through sixth grade, plans to apply for the Green Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education. In a nationwide search for sustainable districts to visit and gather ideas, four sites -- Boston, Portland, Washington, D.C. and Middleton -- were located to send teams of teachers and students.

Fourth-graders at Park hosted seven sixth-grade students and two teachers from GCCS to demonstrate the work Park students and staff do in order to maintain their Green Ribbon statu, which was achieved in 2014.  Park fourth-graders and principal Monica Schommer presented and answered questions on a number of topics including the school’s long-time efforts in energy conservation, recycling, health and wellness, and outdoor education. 

Park students revealed their commitment to outdoor education while presenting about their community partnership with the Ice Age Trail Alliance in Cross Plains. Since the fall of 2014, Park fourth-graders have partnered with the Ice Age Trail Alliance in their Saunters program, which is an opportunity for students throughout the state that is geared toward helping students foster a healthy lifestyle while also paralleling the elementary school curriculum. 

Other programs Park students highlighted were their whole school ''seed stomps'' held in the spring,  third-grade work with a rain garden, opportunities presented by the school forest, and the after-school GO Club, which focuses on fitness. 

The GCCS then traveled to Kromreyl to tour the school and meet with Brian Miles and members of the student council, who are working on their own Green Ribbon application.

While Park is 51 years old, the school performs well and has an energy star rating above 90. Kromrey was rebulit and completed in August 2015 and offers the latest in green technology such as geothermal heating and cooling and solar panels for hot water heating.

"This contrast was very interesting to the group who thought an old school couldn’t be labeled green,'' said Deb Weitzel, a retired MHS science teacher who was hired by the District last year in a consulting role.

The final pillar in the Green Ribbon application is environmental education so the GCCS sixth-graders were introduced to the Pheasant Branch Conservancy and the educational field trips provided to District students, Weitzel said.

Rochester gets water from a reservoir so the visitors were not familiar with sandstone aquifers. After a hands-on activity with water soaking into sandstone to demonstrate the storage ability of aquifers, the group hiked to the springs at the Conservancy. The springs always have a ''wow'' factor for visitors, Weitzel said, and the sixth-graders were no exception. Even with air temperatures hovering around 12 degrees, gloves came off and hands were placed in “boils” to get the full experience, she said.