T ahoma Junior High is among just four schools in the state to be nominated for a first-ever national award for environmental programs.
“I’m pleased for the people who have put in a lot of work on this,” says Rob Morrow, junior high principal.
This is the pilot year for the “Green Ribbon Schools Award,” created by the U.S. Department of Education. Each state has been invited to nominate three public and one private school, and the winning schools will be announced on April 23.
People feel safe here
The Green Ribbon program has three pillars: the school’s work on lowering environmental impact and improving energy efficiency; the school’s ability to provide a healthy school environment; and the school’s efforts to educate kids about sustainability.
Morrow rattles off a long list of staff and teachers at the junior high who have shown their commitment to the three pillars.
For example, he credits the success of the school’s lunchtime recycling to security officer Sean Kelly and custodians Bill Collins and Mark Sutton, who have worked hard to train students to separate their lunch waste.
“Our guys just do a great job, and they’re part of our team here,” Morrow says. “They take a lot of pride in it.”
The junior high also has a dedicated “green team” of students under the leadership of science teacher Kim McHenry.
That’s the environmental impact pillar, but the junior high had to demonstrate excellence in the other two as well. For the healthy school environment pillar, the junior high offers numerous recreational fitness experiences, Morrow says. For example, students take a hiking field trip to Mount St. Helens.
Nancy Skerrit, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, credits Morrow’s focus on mental and emotional health as a crucial component of the health and fitness pillar. Morrow invites speakers to address the school on topics such as respect.
“The whole school is commited to improving school climate and reducing incidents of bullying and harassment, so people feel safe here,” Skerrit says.
“Our health and fitness curriculum I would say is state class and world class throughout the district,” she says.
For the sustainability curriculum pillar, Morrow and Skerrit point to the “Sounding Off on the Sound” unit created for the ninth-grade Washington State History course as a “signature” piece. The unit examines human impact and pollution on the local watershed. Read about some of the junior high students’ involvement with Friends of the Cedar River Watershed HERE.
The “Sounding Off” unit takes a unique approach to Washington State History, bringing together components from civics to science to economics to geography with a focus on what students can do now, Skerrit says.The school also partners with businesses, nonprofits and marine scientists to work with the kids in the unit, including a field trip in which kids ride on a Puget Sound ferry as marine biologists and others discuss what’s happening under the water.
“It truly is a model showcase unit,” Skerrit says. “The whole notion of call to action where kids are realizing they can make a difference in small ways and big ways … that’s really key.”
Skerrit credits Tahoma Junior High teachers for being unusually willing to collaborate and take risks with new curriculum.
“The social studies teachers have been wonderful to work with, and I think that’s unique because social studies tends to get ingrained in tradition,” she says.
Washington state recognized two other Tahoma schools as “Green Leader Schools” for excellence in one of the pillars: Glacier Park Elementary for sustainability education and Tahoma Senior High for a healthy school environment. Nine other schools statewide were named Green Leader Schools but also didn’t make the cut to be nominated for the national award.
The Tahoma School District was the only district in the state to have three schools recognized by the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction in this process. Read more at OSPI’s website HERE.
Along with Tahoma Junior High, the other three schools nominated for the national award are Camelot Elementary in Federal Way, the Secondary Academy for Success in Northshore and The Overlake School in Redmond.
Superintendent Mike Maryanski says that it’s not just district leaders, teachers and staff but students who have initiated many of the environmental programs such as recycling throughout the district.
“The kids have had a real impact on our school system,” he says.
To be sure you don’t miss any stories in the Post, you have three options: Click the “like” button below to receive alerts on your Facebook newsfeed; click the Twitter icon in the sidebar to follow us on Twitter; OR type your email address in the sidebar (to the right of this story) to receive once-a-day digests of new posts.
What do you think of the district’s “green” achievements? Add to the comments posted below.
Please share this story with neighbors to find out what they think. Click the “share” button below to post it to Facebook OR email the link.